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Is Russia a direct successor of the USSR? Could the USSR be considered to continue existing under a different name?

Is Russia a direct successor of the USSR? Could the USSR be considered to continue existing under a different name?



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Consider this: before WWII, France controlled a vast number of colonies around the globe. They have since lost most of their territory, however their official name remains as French Republic and they're considered to be the same state as they were before.

Now let's take the situation in the USSR: in 1991 the 12 Soviet Republics split up and formed independent states, with Russia becoming the successor state to the USSR. Does this mean that the USSR merely changed it's name and lost a few territories? Or did the USSR completely cease to exist, while brand new states were created in it's territory?

I'm looking for a legal/historical answer, not a subjective one.


More than a question of Soviets/no soviets (which is a mostly internal affair), the situation is that the USSR did effectively cease to exist.

To clarify the concepts, USSR was never Russia other than in informal talk. The USSR was a federation of several countries, one of which (and the one which most political weight) was Russia.

In 1991 the states members of the USSR agreed to its dissolution, which brought an end to it. It was also agreed that Russia would be its successor state, replacing the SU at the international level.

  • USSR ambassies became Russian ambassies

  • Russian retained USSR place at the UN (including permanent member of the Security Council and veto power)

  • Russian was bound by the treaties that the USSR was part of (notably, nuclear disarmament treaties).


That's a difficult question to answer. Many of the institutions that existed under the USSR were effectively retained (eg, the KGB is now the FSB). While there have certainly been reforms, there are many who are in power (either politically or economically) who still adhere to the old Soviet ways, which essentially boils down to systemic corruption within a police state fueled by paranoia. In addition, decades of repression and propaganda have had a large impact on the collective psyche of the population.


The USSR does no longer exists. In fact, when Gorbachov resigns the flag of the USSR is removed from the Kremlin, and the flag of Russia takes its place.

Basically the USSR ends in 1990 when the constitution removes the article that declares that the Comunist Party is the only political party, this was done by the new Congress, not by the soviets. This event means that the soviet no longer had any power. Therefore from now the Soviet Union no longer works as a soviet. Later Russia and the other states declare their self-government.

The new states actually always existed, the difference is that they declared their independence during the fall of the USSR. The concept would be similar to a disintegration of present day Spain.

Before the revolution of 1917 one might have said that the different states where colonies or territories of Russia, but during the communist age they where states of the Union, after all, the communists were against any form of colonization.


The fall of Soviet Russia hysterically explained through memes

The reign of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (or USSR) came to a screeching halt in 1991. After 68 years of reign, the collective of socialist countries were dissolved and reformed into new borders and republic entities.

This month, we look back on the August Coup, when Soviet Communists failed their takeover, and eventually, to the dissolution to the Soviet Union as a whole.

Take a look at the best memes we found commemorating this important event in world history.

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Ice Age baby is actually to blame after all.

What’s your favorite USSR meme? Tell us below.

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Why Democracy Didn’t Work in Russia

In 1997, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, the Clinton administration’s lead official on all matters Russia, gave a speech at Stanford University on American policy toward Moscow. He admitted, in not so many words, that persuading the erratic President Boris Yeltsin to keep on course with economic reform and progress toward democracy was a daunting task. But Talbott declared himself optimistic nonetheless. His main reason, he said, was “generational,”

or to be even more blunt, biological. The dynamic of what is happening in Russia today is not just Westernizers versus Slavophiles it is also young versus old—and the young have a certain advantage in at least that dimension of the larger struggle.

I was a correspondent in Moscow at the time I read Talbott’s speech, and I remember being struck by its obtuseness—a feeling that has remained with me since. I wondered how younger Russians would react to a U.S. diplomat openly expressing the hope that their grandparents and parents would die off as quickly as possible and so open the path to an American vision of progress.

There was nothing especially original about my question. Communists and ultranationalists were already trading widely in conspiracy theories that the country’s startling demographic collapse, unprecedented in peacetime, was the direct result of American-engineered plots “to weaken Russia.” In reality, of course, a “weakened Russia” was much more likely to lose effective control over its vast arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, drastically increasing the possibility that some might fall into terrorist hands. Such an outcome hardly seemed to be in the interests of the West or anyone else. A stable Russia, prosperous and democratic, made for a much better bet—assuming, of course, that someone had a viable plan for bringing it about.

By the time of Talbott’s speech, such a scenario was looking distinctly improbable. During my years in Moscow, I did meet quite a few Russians who placed their faith in the principles of political and economic freedom, though they were clearly members of a small minority. Strikingly little evidence, however, supported the notion that young people were the self-evident constituency for a liberal future. Most of the 20-somethings I met—and especially those from outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg—expressed strongly nationalist views. Though they welcomed the freedom to travel and consume, they just as often mourned the collapse of the Soviet Union. For those with little memory of the privations of the socialist system, and who had experienced the Gorbachev and Yeltsin period primarily as a time of political chaos and economic upheaval, such seemingly paradoxical positions made perfect sense.

In her excellent new book on Russia’s transition from the faltering democracy of the 1990s to the Putinist present, Masha Gessen shares the tale of the sociologist Yuri Levada, who conducted a wide-ranging survey of Soviet public opinion over this time. No one had dared undertake a project of this kind in the Soviet Union before. But perestroika gave Levada a rare chance. In 1987, he and his colleagues sent out thousands of questionnaires to citizens, filled with queries (When did people like to celebrate? What were their greatest fears?) designed to tease out evidence of changing mentalities. From their answers, Levada concluded that the Soviet citizen of the 1980s—or “Homo Sovieticus,” as some rather archly referred to it—was an inherently endangered species. The generations shaped by Stalinist terror and Brezhnevite stasis were now giving way to a younger, more confident cohort. Concluding that Homo Sovieticus was “a dying breed,” whose demise would spell the collapse of the USSR itself, he set out to chart the shift in attitudes that, he predicted, would accompany this dramatic transformation.

This effort was so significant, Gessen argues, because the Soviet Union was a place that did not know itself. The dictates of Marxist ideology gave little space to divergent disciplines such as sociology, psychology, or philosophy. Only with the juddering transition to democracy could Russia begin the gradual acquisition of collective self-knowledge. Gessen opts to tell this story through the lives of seven figures: the sociologist Lev Gudkov, one of Levada’s closest collaborators Seryozha (she refers to some of her characters only by their informal first names), the grandson of an architect of perestroika Zhanna, the daughter of a prominent liberal politician Marina Arutyunyan, a woman who discovers her vocation as a psychoanalyst Masha, a young woman who becomes an organizer of anti-government protests Lyosha, a provincial professor whose discovery of his gay identity leads him to establish the first formal program of gender studies in the country and a frustrated academic by the name of Alexander Dugin, who becomes the leading ideologue of a virulent new strain of Russian ultranationalism.

All seven come from a well-educated, relatively prosperous milieu that gives them the skills and self-awareness to comment on their own experiences with a sense of clarity. This privileged background makes for a rather narrow focus: I could never quite escape the sense that I was viewing Gessen’s story through a telescope rather than a big, broad window. The group is noticeably lacking in businesspeople, bureaucrats, or members of the security forces—people who were, one might argue, just as instrumental in shaping the fate of Russia after the USSR. Yet Gessen’s cast of characters tell a powerful story of their own, giving us an intimate look into the minds of a group crucial to understanding the country’s brief experience of democracy and of the authoritarian regime that follows.

Of Gessen’s seven characters, four are born in the 1980s and, coming of age in the post-Soviet period, they seem, at least at first, to herald a change in attitudes. Lyosha, the gay rights activist, hails from the hardscrabble town of Solikamsk in the Ural Mountains, 1,000 miles to the east of the capital. Growing up in the 1990s, Lyosha flourishes. Taking ready advantage of new freedoms, he manages to explore his own identity, connecting with a network of gay activists across Russia and beyond. He persuades some of the more open-minded scholars in his orbit to accept sexual identity as a subject worthy of study. He even ends up creating a Gender Studies Center at his university in Perm—a city that was once home to a Stalinist concentration camp.

Zhanna, the daughter of the liberal politician Boris Nemtsov, experiences the 1990s at first as a period of dizzying rise in her father’s political fortunes. He makes a name for himself in the provincial city of Nizhny Novgorod, but the family soon makes the move to Moscow. There for a time he’s even designated as Yeltsin’s official successor (an odd status in what is ostensibly, at this time, an electoral democracy). Seryozha, who also comes from the ruling class, develops his own sense of politics during this period. For him the changes brought by the collapse of the Soviet Union are jarring: He watches his grandfather, a Gorbachev aide, struggle with the rise of Vladimir Putin and the fading of a comparatively open society. Masha, by contrast, comes from an intensely intellectual family that shows little interest in politics her own political awakening comes as she confronts the deepening corruption and declining social mobility of the New Russia. All three of them exemplify the openness to change that typified many members of the educated, urban elite at the time.

By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, Lev Gudkov, the sociologist, realizes to his horror that his mentor Levada’s predicted demise of the Soviet personality type has proven a terrible illusion. Or, to put it differently, Talbott’s “biological” solution hasn’t materialized—just the opposite, in fact. As the data from myriad national surveys had begun to reveal, the totalitarian mind-set was far more deeply ingrained than the optimists had assumed:

This was Gudkov’s depressing and, he had to admit, radical idea: The last century could be viewed as a continuity, with periodic bumps of “aborted modernization,” and the society he had been studying his entire adult life had stayed essentially the same. What made this idea radical was that no one wanted to hear it.

Gessen’s characters find themselves confronting the startling resilience of the old attitudes in a variety of ways. But it is arguably Lyosha’s experience that most vividly exemplifies the trend Gudkov observed. Living as an openly gay man, he suffers as Putin’s rise gradually puts homosexuals squarely back on the state’s official enemies list , targeted by the ultra-reactionary Kremlin as exemplars of presumed “Western decadence.” Lyosha’s university colleagues begin to treat him differently as they sense the shifting of the political wind as the official narrative increasingly demonizes gays, he finds himself the target of a revived Soviet culture of snitching and craven pandering to the powers that be. Heartbreakingly, Lyosha’s tale of self-discovery takes him from tentative emergence to uncertain triumph to resounding defeat. By the end of Gessen’s reporting, Lyosha has emigrated to the United States, where he is now living a second life as a gay activist in the Russian-speaking neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Some of the most powerful parts of Gessen’s book are moments of individual revelation. In March 2008, Seryozha flies from Kiev, where he’s taken up temporary residence, to Moscow purely for the sake of casting a vote in that year’s presidential election. After an exhausting trip from the airport into the city, he spends 50 minutes waiting in line for subway tickets. The tickets are cheap, and he has plenty of money, so he conjures up a small rebellion: He buys 60 tickets and starts handing them out to others for free. The police immediately take him into custody, even though he hasn’t actually broken any statute. First they reproach him for “reselling” tickets, then they rebuke him for potentially getting the cashier in trouble. “What do you think you are, God?” one of them asks.

The incident reveals a social mechanism that is deeply entwined with habits of long-established totalitarian reflexes. Levada once memorably described it as “collective hostage-taking”:

It turned everyone into an enforcer of the existing order, independent and often outside of any law. In the case of the Metro queue, the police officer instinctively sensed that it was his job to ensure that all passengers remain in a state of equal misery, and to prevent any attempt at self-organization. At the polling place, the ballot—with the absurd, almost virtual candidate in first place—turned every voter into a co-conspirator. By casting a ballot one affirmed the legitimacy of the exercise.

The story of Masha, whose political coming of age gradually brings her to a key organizational role in the epochal anti-government protests of 2011 and 2012, shows how a new generation of activists tried nonetheless to shore up democracy—and was brutally suppressed by Putin’s regime for its troubles. Born in “Orwell’s year” of 1984, Masha embarks on a rebellion against the corruption and stagnation of the Putin era, leading her to organize one of the most notorious recent protests, on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square. The police ultimately charge her with “inciting a riot.” (She is later amnestied.) During this same period, Zhanna watches as her father and others choose the path of principled opposition to Putin and his KGB aristocracy and end up paying for it, in some cases with their lives. One of the low points in Gessen’s book comes in February 2015, when Zhanna’s father, Boris Nemtsov, is shot dead on a bridge in full view of the Kremlin.

Many social scientists, Gessen notes, are wary of using the word “totalitarian” to describe post-Soviet Russia, preferring terms like “hybrid regime.” Yet the startling durability of “Homo Sovieticus” and many Soviet-style institutions is in itself a feature of a totalitarian state. At one point in 2015, we see Gudkov studying apparently divergent survey data: Putin’s popularity is rising even as consumer expectations, battered by sanctions and low oil prices, continue to slide. It’s totalitarian psychology that helps to explain why the two things actually go together. Gudkov had “come to the conclusion,” Gessen writes, “that scarcity was essential for the survival of a totalitarian regime.”

The return of totalitarianism in Putin’s Russia was not, Gessen shows, inevitable. It required architects, one of whom Putin found in the ultranationalist academic Alexander Dugin. It also required opportunity, which Putin’s predecessors created through a series of missteps.

The government of Boris Yeltsin, while genuinely progressive in some ways, was hamstrung from its beginning by a failure to solve the lingering economic catastrophe it inherited from Soviet times. Aware of his ebbing popularity, Yeltsin ultimately eschewed putting the Soviet Communist Party on trial efforts to engage in a meaningful truth and reconciliation program, which might have helped to make Russians more aware of the grim realities of the past, were deferred. As Gorbachev’s attempt to create a more humane (but still Communist) Soviet Union foundered on the two-pronged resistance of conservatives and Yeltsinite liberals, Alexander Yakovlev, Seryozha’s grandfather, was appointed chair of a Rehabilitation Commission, devoted to documenting the horrors of the Stalinist era and helping its victims. But by 1991 the Commission lost its funding and, over time, it became clear that Yeltsin no longer intended to expend the political capital needed to reckon with a painful history.

The economic disruptions of the 1990s harmed the prospect of democracy in a second important way. Between the hyperinflation of 1991 to ’93 (which destroyed the savings of many citizens, especially the elderly) and the devaluation and financial crisis of 1998 (which devastated the green shoots of the nascent market economy), many ordinary Russians began to identify “democracy” with impoverishment and rank injustice. The irony, as Gessen shows, is that this “democracy” was never especially liberal to begin with—certainly not after 1993, when Yeltsin was forced to turn tanks and artillery on conservative rebels in the same Russian parliament building where he had defied the coup attempt of 1991.

After Putin assumed the presidency in 2000, he moved slowly and methodically to consolidate his position, gradually stripping rival oligarchs of their media properties and their political power. He placed his allies—his longtime friends from St. Petersburg as well as his associates from the Soviet-era secret police—in crucial spots in the bureaucracy, where they often wielded huge sway over large sections of the economy. Aside from a few vague allusions to Soviet and Russian greatness, Putin made little reference to ideology along the way.

It was Alexander Dugin, a once-marginal nerd, who provided the necessary intellectual underpinning for this old-new system. Spurred on by his study of Heidegger and European identitarians, Dugin rediscovered and celebrated the radically anti-Western strain in Russian intellectual history. He embraced the “ethnogenetic” theories of Lev Gumilev, the former dissident who viewed Russia as a sort of mystical hybrid of the most powerful cultural traits of Europe and Asia. Dugin celebrated the presumed superiority of what he began to call the “Russian World” (a phrase now widely used by the Putin regime) and bitterly denounced the United States and other western democracies for their diabolical plans to impose their allegedly “alien” values on a “traditional values civilization.”

Along the way Dugin has called openly for the “annihilation” of liberal “traitors” such as Nemtsov—whose murder can be seen as indirect confirmation of Dugin’s influence. Though many have overstated the extent of direct contact between Dugin and the Putin government, there’s little question that Dugin has left a lasting mark on the regime’s thinking and terminology. And just in case there are Americans who still smugly insist that we’re immune to this sort of thing, consider the fact that Dugin recently got a considerable chunk of airtime on Alex Jones’s Infowars, a web site approvingly cited as a source by none other than President Donald Trump.

Even though I often felt nauseated by Gessen’s dissections of the workings of Putinism, I finished the book with an unexpected sense of hope. Why? The apologists for despotism may appear to have won the battle, but not the argument. As Gessen notes in her epilogue, young Russians keep showing up in their thousands to protest—and to be arrested. In keeping with a long and moving Russian tradition, anonymous supporters keep showing up to place new flowers and mementos on the bridge where Nemtsov was gunned down—even though the authorities keep removing them. And when his daughter Zhanna, now living in German exile, decided to award an annual prize to celebrate courage and determination in fighting the Putin regime, she found “there was stiff competition for the award.” Change in Russia won’t, as Talbott predicted, come about naturally, but it could result from struggle.


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1 In polls, norms concerning social protection, quality of medical insurance, etc. received the highest approval. See Ksenia Vorontsova, VTSIOM: 61% rossiian sobiraiutsia podderazhat’ popravki k Konstitutsii (VTSIOM: 61% of Russians Intend to Support Amendments to the Constitution), Rossiyskaya Gazeta (May 30, 2020), at https://rg.ru/2020/05/30/vciom-61-rossiian-sobiraiutsia-podderzhat-popravki-k-konstitucii.html.

2 See further on the political-legal techniques of the “all-Russian vote,” Socher , Johannes , Farewell to the European Constitutional Tradition: The 2020 Russian Constitutional Amendments , 80 Zaörv 2020 1Google Scholar , 11 et seq.

3 On the Constitution of 1993 and the Russian constitutional culture, see Jane Henderson, The Constitution of the Russian Federation. A Contextual Analysis (2011).

4 See Roberts , Anthea , Stephan , Paul B. , Verdier , Pierre-Hugues & Versteeg , Mila , Comparative International Law: Framing the Field , 109 AJIL 467 ( 2015 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

5 For detailed evidence from international and constitutional practice of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, see, e.g., Ineta Ziemele, State Continuity and Nationality: The Baltic States and Russia: Past, Present and Future as Defined by International Law (2005) Lauri Mälksoo, Illegal Annexation and State Continuity: The Case of the Incorporation of the Baltic States in the USSR (2003).

6 See, e.g., Jeff Kahn, The Parade of Sovereignties: Establishing the Vocabulary of the New Russian Federalism, 16 Post-Soviet Affairs 58 (2000).

7 Here and in the following, reference to the amended constitutional articles is taken from the Novyi tekst Konstitutsii s popravkami 2020 (New Text of the Constitution with the Amendments of 2020), State Duma News ( July 3, 2020) , at http://duma.gov.ru/news/48953.

8 Chem v Rossii groziat prizyvy k otchuzhdeniu territorii (What Threatens in Russia in the Case of Calls to Secession of Territory), State Duma News (Aug. 10, 2020), at http://duma.gov.ru/news/49299.

9 See GA Res. 68/262, Territorial Integrity of Ukraine (Mar. 27, 2014).

10 Priniaty zakony ob otvetstvennosti za otchuzhdenie territorii (Laws Adopted on Responsibility for Alienating Territory), State Duma News (Nov. 18, 2020), at http://duma.gov.ru/news/50048.

11 Artem Girsh, Putin rasskazal o “mine zamedlennogo deistvia” v Konstitutsii SSSR (Putin Told About the “Slow-Impact Mine” in the Constitution of the USSR), Vedomosti (July 5, 2020), at https://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/news/2020/07/05/833979-putin-rasskazal-o-konstitutsii.

12 However, scholars have rightly observed that in practice, this right remained only on paper. See Petr P. Kremnev, Raspad SSSR: Mezhdunarodno-Pravovye Problemy (Disintegration of the USSR: International Legal Problems) 43 (2005).

13 See Girsh, supra note 11.

15 See Russian President Press Release, Dogovor mezhdu Rossiiskoi Federatsiei i Ukrainoi o rossiisko-ukrainskoi gosudarstvennoi graniitse (Jan. 28, 2003), at http://kremlin.ru/supplement/1653.

16 Tatiana D. Matveeva, Printsip territorialnoi tselostnosti v mezhdunarodno-pravovom instrumentarii mirnogo razreshenia territorialnykh sporov (The Principle of Territorial Integrity in the Context of Territorial Dispute Resolution), 1 Moscow J. Int'l L. 6, 13 (2018).

17 See Grigory I. Tunkin, Theory of International Law 21 (William E. Butler trans., 1974).

18 See recently, e.g., Russ. Fed. Min. For. Aff. Press Release, The Declaration of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China on the Promotion of International Law 4 (June 25, 2016), at https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/position_word_order/-/asset_publisher/6S4RuXfeYlKr/content/id/2331698.

19 See, e.g., Ivo Juurvee & Mariita Mattiisen, The Bronze Soldier Crisis of 2007. Revisiting an Early Case of Hybrid Conflict, Int'l Centre Defense & Security (ICDS) (Aug. 2020), available at https://icds.ee/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/ICDS_Report_The_Bronze_Soldier_Crises_of_2007_Juurvee_Mattiisen_August_2020.pdf.

20 See, e.g., James R. Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law 667 (2d ed. 2007). The classic study is Krystyna Marek, Identity and Continuity of States in Public International Law (1954).

21 See Stanislav V. Chernichenko, Teoria Mezhdunarodnogo Prava (Theory of International Law), Vol. II, at 58–87 (1999) Vladislav L. Tolstykh, Kurs Mezhdunarodnogo Prava (Course in International Law) 267 (2019) Mezhdunarodnoe Pravo ( International Law) 91 (Valery I. Kuznetsov & Bakhtiyar R. Tuzmukhamedov eds., 2d ed. 2007).

22 Chernichenko , supra, note 21, at 84‒87.

23 See Kremnev , supra, note 12, at 241‒42.

24 Istoriya Rossii. XX Vek. 1894–1939 (History Of Russia. The 20th Century. 1894‒1939 ) 544 (Andrey Zubov ed., 2009) Istoriya Rossii. XX Vek. 1939–2007 (History Of Russia. The 20th Century. 1939–2007 ) 15 (Andrey Zubov ed., 2009).

25 Postanovlenie Konstitutsionnoga Suda Rossiiskoi Federatsii po delu o proverke konstitutsionnosti polozhenii stat'i 13 zakona “O reabilitatsii zhertv politicheskikh repressii,” punktov 3 i 5 stat'i 7, punkta 1 chasti 1 i chasti 2 stat'i 8 Zakona goroda Moskvy “Ob obespechenii prava zhitelei goroda Moskvy na zhilye pomeshtchenia” v sviazi s zhalobami grazhdan A.L.Meissner, E.S. Mikhailovoi i E.B. Shashevoi (Dec. 10, 2019), available at http://doc.ksrf.ru/decision/KSRFDecision442846.pdf. See also Aleksandr Chernykh & Natalia Glukhova, Sudia KS otdelil RF ot SSSR (Judge of the CC Separated the Russian Federation from the USSR), Kommersant (Feb. 17, 2020), at https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4258690.

26 See Postanovlenie, Opinion of Judge Aranovsky, supra note 25, at 30.

27 Vladimir Putin, The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II, Nat'l Interest (June 18, 2020), at https://nationalinterest.org/feature/vladimir-putin-real-lessons-75th-anniversary-world-war-ii-162982. See also Russian President Press Release, Vladimir Putin, President Russian Federation, Speech at the CIS Informal Summit (Dec. 20, 2019), at http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/62376.

28 See V GD prokommentirovali snos pamiatnika marshalu Konevu v Prage (In the State Duma the Removal of the Monument to Marshal Konev in Prague Was Commented Upon), State Duma News (Apr. 10, 2020), at http://duma.gov.ru/news/48262 (referring to the views of Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the State Duma).

29 See Prinyat zakon Prezidenta RF ob ugolovnoi otvetstvennosti za povrezhdenie voinskikh zakhoronenii (Law of the President of the RF Was Adopted on Responsibility of Damaging Military Graves), State Duma News (Mar. 31, 2020), at http://duma.gov.ru/news/48192. See also Ugolovnyi kodeks Rossiiskoi Federatsii (Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), available at http://www.consultant.ru/document/cons_doc_LAW_10699/ce7af482a33b637b65c85f433ea3f82d916cb418.

30 See Socher, supra note 2, at 13.

31 Judgment of 14 July 2015, No 21-П/2015 (Const. Ct. Russ. Fed.) (Russ.), available at http://doc.ksrf.ru/decision/KSRFDecision201896.pdf.

32 Federal Constitutional Law on the Introduction of Amendments to the Federal Constitutional Law “On the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation,” entered into force Dec. 14, 2015, N 7-ФКЗ.

33 See Dmitri Bartenev, LGBT Rights in Russia and European Human Rights Standards, in Russia and the European Court of Human Rights: The Strasbourg Effect 326–51 (Lauri Mälksoo & Wolfgang Benedek eds., 2017).

34 Fedotova and Shipitko v. Russia, App. Nos. 40792/10, 30538/14, 43439/14 (communicated May 2, 2016), at http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-163362.

35 Case of Konstantin Markin v. Russia, App. No. 30078/06, Judgment (Eur. Ct. Hum. Rts. Oct. 7, 2010) Grand Chamber Judgment (Mar. 22, 2012).

36 July 14, 2015 Judgment, supra note 31.

37 See Judgment of Apr. 19, 2016, No. 12-П/2016 (Const. Ct. Russ. Fed.) (Russ.), available at http://www.ksrf.ru/en/Decision/Judgments/Documents/2016_April_19_12-P.pdf see also Case of Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia, App. Nos. 11157/04, 15162/05, Judgment (Eur. Ct. Hum. Rts. July 7, 2013) A.Kh.Abashidze, M.V. Ilyashevich & A.M.Solntsev, Anchugov & Gladkov v. Russia, 111 AJIL 461 (2017).

38 See Medellin v. Texas, 552 U.S. 491 (2008). See generally Curtis A. Bradley, International Law in the U.S. Legal System (2d ed. 2015).

40 See Case of OAO Neftyanaya Kompaniya Yukos v. Russia, App. No. 14902/04, Judgment (Just Satisfaction) (Eur. Ct. Hum. Rts. July 31, 2014). Judgment of Jan. 19, 2017 (Const. Ct. Russ. Fed.) (Russ.), available at http://doc.ksrf.ru/decision/KSRFDecision258613.pdf.

41 Stanislav V. Chernichenko, Evropeiskii Sud po pravam cheloveka: problema neispolnimosti postanovlenii (The European Court of Human Rights: The Problem of Unenforceable Judgments), 3 Moscow J. Int'l L. 7 (2018).

42 European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission), Russian Federation, Opinion on the Draft Amendments to the Constitution (as Signed by the President of the Russian Federation on 14 March 2020) Related to the Execution by the Russian Federation of Decisions by the European Court of Human Rights, Opinion No. 981/2020, paras. 55, 62 (June 18, 2020), at https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD(2020)009-e.

46 Rossia otvergaet obvinenia Niderlandov v prichastnosti k krusheniu reisa MN17 (Russia Rejects Accusations by The Netherlands Regarding Participation in the Downing of Flight MN17), Kommersant (July 10, 2020), at https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4414853.

47 See, e.g., Vtoroe chtenie popravok v Konstitutsiu zaplanirovano na 11 fevralia (Second Reading of Amendments to the Constitution is Planned for the 11th of February), State Duma News (Jan. 23, 2020), at http://duma.gov.ru/news/47611 (referring to the statements of State Duma Chairman Viatcheslav Volodin) Anna Poltavtseva, Politolog: Otmena primata mezhdunarodnogo prava v Konstitutsii snizit vneshnee vozdeistvie na Rossiu (Political Scientist: The Change in the Primacy of International Law in the Constitution Diminishes Foreign Interference in Russian Affairs), Rossiyskaya Gazeta (June 5, 2020), at https://rg.ru/2020/06/05/politolog-otmena-primata-mezhdunarodnogo-prava-v-konstitucii-snizit-vneshnee-vozdejstvie-na-rossiiu.html (interview with political scientist Dmitry Abzalov) Andrei Klishas, Suverenitet bez ogranichenii: Zashchita gosudarstvennogo suvereniteta v usloviakh globalizatsii: Rossia v mirovom trende (Sovereignty Without Limits: The Protection of State Sovereignty in Conditions of Globalization: Russia in the Global Trend), Rossiyskaya Gazeta (June 9, 2020), at https://rg.ru/2020/06/09/klishas-suverenitet-samostoiatelnost-celostnost-rossii-bezuslovny.html.

48 Yukos Universal Limited (Isle of Man) and the Russian Federation, PCA Case No. AA227, Final Award (July 18, 2014), at https://pcacases.com/web/sendAttach/420.

49 In the context of the ECtHR, such cases have so far concerned the three Baltic states, not the Russian Federation directly.

50 Poltavtseva, supra note 47.

51 See, e.g., Sergey Yu. Marochkin, The Operation of International Law in the Russian Legal System (2019) S.V. Chernichenko, Tezis o verkhovenstve mezhdunarodnogo prava i Konstitutsia Rossiiskoi Federatsii (Thesis of the Supremacy of International Law and the Constitution of the Russian Federation), 2016 Russian Y.B. Int'l L. 20 (2017) Implementatsia Reshenii Evropeiskogo Suda Po Pravam Cheloveka V Rossiiskoi Pravovoi Sisteme: Kontseptsii, Pravovye Podkhody I Praktika Obespechenia ( Implementation of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in the Russian Legal System: Concepts, Legal Approaches and Practice ) (V.V. Lazarev ed., 2020) M.A. Likhachev, Konstitutsionnyi Sud Rossii i Evropeiskii Sud po Pravam cheloveka: poisk kompromissa prodolzhaetsia (Russia's Constitutional Court and the ECHR: The Search for Compromise Continues), in Mezhdunarodnoe I Natsionalnoe Pravo: Konfrontatsia Ili Simbioz? (L.A. Lazutin & I.V. Fedorov eds., 2016) V.V. Bogatyrev & R.A. Kalamkarian, Pravoprimenitelnyi rezhim implementatsii mezhdunarodnogo prava v pravovoi sisteme Rossiiskoi Federatsii (The Legal Enforcement Regime of International Law in the Legal System of the Russian Federation), 11 Gosudarstvo I Pravo 79 (2018) Bogdan L. Zimnenko, Mezhdunarodnoe Pravo I Pravovaia Sistema Rossiiskoi Federatsii (International Law and the Legal System of the RF ) (2010).

52 See, e.g., Oleg I. Tiunov, Anna A. Kashirkina & Andrei N. Morozov, Vypolnenie Mezhdunarodnykh Dogovorov Rossiiskoi Federatsii (Implementation of International Treaties in the Russian Federation ) (2012).

53 See, e.g., I.I. Karandashov, Printsip pacta sunt servanda i chast 4 stati 15 konstitutsii Rossiiskoi Federatsii: predely ikh tolkovania i primenenia v Rossiiskoi Federatsii (The Pacta Sunt Servanda Principle and Art. 15 para. 4 of the Constitution of the RF: Limits of Interpretation and Application in the RF), 2012 Russ. Y.B. Int'l L. 174 (2013) Pavel A. Laptev, Konstitutsia i mezhdunarodnye dogovory (The Constitution and International Treaties), 2011 Russ. Y.B. Int'l L. 219 (2012) Viacheslav V. Gavrilov, Poniatie I Vzaimodeistvie Mezhdunarodnoi I Natsional'nykh Pravovykh Sistem (The Concept of Interaction Between International and National Legal Systems ) 200 (2d ed. 2019) Bogdan L. Zimnenko, O meste i znachenii praktiki mezhgosudarstvennykh organov po zashchite prav i svobod cheloveka v pravovoi sisteme Rossiiskoi Federatsii (na primere rassmotrenia sudami Rossiiskoi Federatsii konkretnykh del (The Role and Significance of the Practice of Interstate Organs for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms in the Legal System of the Russian Federation (Cases Considered by the Courts of the Russian Federation), 3 Moscow J. Int'l L. 92 (2017).

54 Vitali S. Ivanenko, Mezhdunarodnye dogovory, Konstitutsia i pravovaia sistema Rossiiskoi Federatsii: evoliutsia sootnoshenia i tendentsii vzaimodeistvia (International Treaties, Constitution and the Legal System of the RF: Evolution of the Coexistence and Tendencies of Mutual Impact), 2009 Russ. Y.B. Int'l L. 9, 25 (2010).

55 See, e.g., A.A. Dorskaya, Mezhdunarodno-pravovye normy v sisteme Rossiiskogo prava: istoriko-pravovoi analiz (International Legal Norms in the Russian Legal System: Historical-Legal Analysis), 2011 Russ. Y.B. Int'l L. 81, 90 (2012).

56 Viatcheslav Volodin predlozhil proanalizirovat’ mezhdunarodnye dogovory RF na sootvetstvie verkhovenstvu Konstitutsii (Viatcheslav Volodin Proposed to Analyze International Treaties of Russia with Respect to the Supremacy of the Constitution), State Duma News (July 9, 2020), at http://duma.gov.ru/news/49037.

57 Boris I. Osminin, Zakliuchenie I Implementatsia Mezhdunarodnykh Dogovorov I Vnutrigosudarstvennoe Pravo (The Conclusion and Implementation of International Treaties and Domestic Law ) 367 (2010).


Russia

a country (territory) and state populated mainly by Russians. Prior to the Great October Socialist Revolution, the term &ldquoRussia&rdquo was understood to mean the entire Russian Empire (formed in the early 18th century), whose territories were populated both by Russian and by non-Russian peoples. In Russian texts, the name &ldquoRussia&rdquo was first applied to the country in the late 15th century, but until the late 17th century the country was more often referred to as Rus&rsquo, the Russian land, or the Muscovite State.

In the mid-16th century, &ldquoRussia&rdquo or &ldquoRussian Tsardom&rdquo (Rossiiskoe tsarstvo) referred to all the lands that then constituted the centralized state headed by Moscow. Later, the term &ldquoRussian&rdquo (rossiiskii) came to refer to subjects of the state the term &ldquoRussians&rdquo (russkie) was first used in reference to the people at the beginning of the 16th century. In the 17th century, the terms &ldquoRussia&rdquo (Rossiia) and &ldquoRussian Land&rdquo (Rossiiskaia zemlia) came into widespread use in Russian texts. In the early 18th century, the Russian State under Emperor Peter I became known officially as the Russian Empire.

As a result of the October Revolution of 1917, Soviet power was established in most of the territory of the former Russian Empire and the name &ldquoSoviet Russia&rdquo came into being. The Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic was formed. In 1922, the RSFSR, together with the Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, and the Transcaucasian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic formed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. At present, &ldquoRussia&rdquo usually refers to the RSFSR. In foreign publications, the name &ldquoRussia&rdquo is frequently used to designate the entire USSR.


Russian-Iraqi Relations: A Historical and Political Analysis.

RUSSIAN (BETWEEN 1917-1991 SOVIET)-Iraqi relations have been generally part and parcel of their relations with the Third World countries and their national liberation movements, particularly Arab nationalism, which for both historical and geostrategic reasons has been especially important for Moscow. However, at the same time, particularly between 1958 and 1990, Soviet-Iraqi relations were marked by some special features, putting them in contrast with Soviet links with other Afro-Asian nations and even some states of the Arab Middle East.

(1) Iraq was first of all the nearest of all Arab countries to the Soviet borders and because of that proximity the threat of Soviet expansion could have been seen as being much more real by its leaders than by the leaders of the other Arab states. (1)

(2) Different from the other Arab states of al-Mashreq, Iraq, since its very beginning in the 1920s, contained a very substantial (close to 25%) ethnic non-Arab Kurdish minority with specific constitutional rights, which were granted in 1925 as a condition for the incorporation of the largely Kurdish populated Mosul region into its borders. (2) The Kurdish people, other groups of which live in Turkey, Iran and Russia, have never completely submitted to their division and lack of national self-determination, and in Iraq since 1961 have constantly demanded territorial autonomy. Their aspirations towards which the Soviet Union could not remain indifferent, were, however, putting it in the awkward situation of having to make a choice between their recognition and its general support of Arab nationalism and the friendly Iraqi government.

(3) The Iraqi Communist Party, which was formally founded in 1934, was one of the most effective and socially influential Marxist organizations in the region. Although it was never strong enough to take power by itself, it nevertheless represented a by no means negligible political force in the country, being for Moscow after 1958, both a valuable asset and an embarrassment in its deals with the "progressive" but still often viciously anti-communist Iraqi government.

(4) Last but not least, Iraq's economic potential and relative wealth, especially after the 1973 October War and the subsequent rise of the oil prices, made this country a financially attractive partner and customer for Moscow. These economic aspects, which had never been absent in the past, have acquired additional importance since the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of Russia as a separate and pro-capitalist nation.

Post-Soviet Russia, rejecting Marxist ideology and the ideological support of the Communist parties and the national liberation movements of the Third World peoples, is nevertheless still interested in cooperation with Iraq, and since 1994 has been supporting Baghdad politically against the U.S.imposed punitive sanctions. As the authors want to show, the history, geopolitics and economics at both regional and global levels were inextricably interwoven in the process of shaping its attitudes and foreign policy decisions. Although the main focus of the paper is Post-Soviet Russia after December 1991, the Soviet background needs to be taken into account and analyzed in order to find the elements of continuity and change in the present policy.

Russian (Soviet) relations with Iraq have a relatively long and complex history. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established for the first time on 9 September 1944 at the end of World War II. (3) The monarchic regime in Baghdad was nevertheless staunchly anti-communist and established its links with Moscow only because of its dependence on Britain and the British-Soviet alliance during the war. In January 1955 relations were broken off after the Soviets criticized the Iraqi government's decision to join the Baghdad Pact. (4)

When the pro-western monarchy was overthrown by a military coup on 14 July 1958, the new leader of the country, General Abd-al-Karim Quasim immediately re-established diplomatic ties with Moscow and started to buy Soviet arms. (5) Since then, for about forty years until the Gorbachev Perestroika in the late 1980s, Soviet-Iraqi cooperation was both close and multi-faceted, and for most of the period it was even officially called a "strategic partnership". However, this did not mean that during all that time their mutual relations had always been equally friendly and without serious political differences. As an American scholar indicated, because of their support of the national-liberation movements, a number of important Third World countries, including Iraq, "declared their friendship for and improved relations with the USSR and sided with it on a number of international problems". In no instance, however, did their leaders "compromise their own national interests or become Soviet stooges." (6) Baghdad's inte rest in cooperation with Moscow "was based on the need for a powerful patron in its efforts to shed all the remnants of Western colonialism and to establish Iraq as an autonomous member of the world order of nation states." (7) At the same time, however, the Iraqi "ruling elite had shown stubborn resistance towards anything which could be regarded as an intrusion into the country's internal affairs or as an infringement upon Iraq's sovereignty over its international policies." (8)

On 8 February 1963 Quasim's regime was overthrown and the Baath party came to power in Baghdad. Its persecution of the Iraqi Communist party and what the Soviet Union then described as its "policy of genocide towards the Kurds" (9) caused a sharp deterioration in Soviet-Iraqi relations. However, relations improved again after the new military coup on 18 November 1963 and during the ensuing Arif Brothers' rule up to July 1968. The visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Abd-al-Rahman al-Bazzaz to Moscow in July-August 1966 was a "milestone in the process of improving Soviet-Iraqi relations." (10) The Soviet Union welcomed the Iraqi government's statement of 29 June 1966 on the recognition of Kurdish national and linguistic rights, and in July 1967 Iraqi President Abd-al Rahman Arif, together with President Houari Boumedienne of Algeria went to Moscow as representatives of the Cairo Arab summit conference after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War. (11) The friendly relations and further cooperation in military, economic and p olitical spheres continued and even increased after the Baath party's return to power on 17 July 1968. In retrospect, the 1968-1975 period could be seen as "the high tide of Soviet influence in Iraq." (12) Its culmination was the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the USSR and the Iraqi Republic signed on 9 April 1972. The Treaty, which was concluded as a result of Iraqi initiative, (13) stressed the need for "concerted action in the international field to ensure world peace and security and to develop political cooperation between Iraq and the USSR" (art. 7) (14) Both parties also declared that "it will not enter into any international alliance or grouping or take part in any actions or undertakings directed against the other" (art. 10). (15) However, the treaty did not include any direct military obligations and stopped short of a real military alliance.

The late 1970s and 1980s brought some cooling of mutual relations and a weakening of cooperation. Iraq's growing financial resources after the rise in oil prices in 1973 created the basis for its widening links with the West and the ratio of the Soviet and Eastern European participation in the country's economic boom steadily declined. As a political outcome of that, some of the differences between the parties "resurfaced, producing visible strains in the 'strategic alliance' between Moscow and Baghdad." (16) In the late 1970s, the differences on issues such as the Palestinian question and the Arab-Israeli dispute, where Iraq was questioning Soviet recognition of the State of Israel in the pre-1967 War borders, Iraq's treatment of the I.C.P., the Kurdish national movement and Soviet support for Ethiopia against Somalia and Eritrea further deteriorated after the Iranian revolution and even more so with the Soviet intervention into Afghanistan on 27 December 1979. On 6 January 1980, Saddam Hussein called the So viet intervention "unjustifiable, erroneous behavior that could cause anxiety for all freedom-loving and independent peoples," (17) and Iraq voted for the resolutions condemning Soviet intervention both in the U.N. General Assembly and the Islamabad (Pakistan) Conference of the Islamic States. (18) When on 22 September 1980 Iraq attacked Iran, starting a war which was going to last for almost eight years and which proved to be devastating to both countries, the USSR did not outwardly condemn Iraq's aggression, but immediately stopped its direct military supply to it and adopted a neutral stand. (19) At all stages of the conflict the Soviet leaders described it as "tragically senseless" and directed against "the fundamental national interests of both countries." (20) In a speech on 30 September 1980, Brezhnev called both the states of Iraq and Iran "friendly to the USSR" and stressed that "We are in favor of Iran and Iraq settling their outstanding problems at the negotiating table." (21) From the Soviet point of view, the situation when the two "anti-imperialist regimes . . . were cutting each other's throats" (22) was truly deplorable. In the summer of 1982 war started to be fought on Iraqi territory and on 10 June 1982 Iraq promised to withdraw to the international border, Moscow then renewed the arms supply to Baghdad (23), but it nevertheless still supported all the attempts at mediation among the belligerents. (24) Its balanced and cautious policy resulted in a marked improvement in its relations with Iran, which would be of particular importance for the future. (25)

Despite all these tensions and even serious political disagreements, Soviet-Iraqi relations remained fundamentally friendly for all that period until the end of the 1980s, and mutual cooperation continued without major disturbances. Condemning the Soviet intervention into Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein nevertheless declared that: "Iraq would not change the trends of its general policy in its relations with the Soviets." (26) The Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation of 1972 has never been suspended and by 1990 fifty more specific treaties had been concluded. (27) According to a Russian scholar: "In spite of some problems Soviet-Iraqi relations might have been characterized as very stable and fruitful, opening great prospects for the future." (28) In the late 1970s, Sadat of Egypt turned his country towards an openly pro-American position and the Islamic Revolution in Iran proved to be both anti-Communist and anti-Soviet. Thus, Iraq's importance for the Soviets increased even more. For the USSR it became almost th e only remaining instrument of influence in the region. (29) However, Iraqi leaders were well aware of the Soviet difficulties and in exchange for the political loyalty and anti-colonial ideals as well as even verbal acceptance of the socialist ideas, constantly demanded economic support and arms supply. (30) Iraq was taking about half of all Soviet exports to the region and the total value of Soviet contracts with Iraq amounted to 37.4 billion U.S. dollars. (31) During the thirty years of cooperation, Soviet specialists built about eighty big factories in Iraq, (32) and prior to 2 August 1990, almost 8,000 Soviet citizens worked in Iraq. (33)

Soviet-Iraqi relations started to change from the late 1980s. As a Russian scholar indicates: "The basic changes in Russian foreign policy took place before the Soviet Union's collapse, still under the rule of the Communist party of the USSR with Gorbachev's team coming to power and the so-called 'perestroika', which in its turn brought about a fundamental breakdown of the previous political orientation. (34) Following the so-called "new political thinking" and trying both to bring to an end the Cold War with the American superpower and alleviate Soviet economic problems, Gorbachev and his advisors looked for better Soviet-Israeli relations and limited the previous Soviet support for the more radical Arab regimes including Iraq. All Soviet policy towards the Middle East now became geared towards the major goal of close cooperation with the West - especially the U.S, (35) and the previously defended national interests in the region, which were by and large consistent with the Arab interests, became "blatantly ignored". (36) Although, according to Russian sources, Gorbachev himself originally hesitated and did not want to condemn outright the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and to follow U.S. policy, he changed his mind under pressure from his foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, a Georgian who was staunchly pro-American and pro-Israel and who threatened to cause a scandal and resign. (37) Almost immediately after the invasion on 2 August 1990, what was still the Soviet government issued a statement condemning it as an act of aggression which contradicts the new positive developments in international affairs. The statement also demanded immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwaiti territory" and "the re-establishment of the sovereignty, national independence, and territorial integrity of Kuwait." (38) The next day on 3 August 1990, the meeting between Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze and the U.S. Secretary of State James Baker fully confirmed Soviet support for the U.S. position regardless of the existing Soviet-Iraqi Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation (particularly its article 10), (39) and the multitude of common links and enterprises. (40) The American side was understandably very pleased (41) and the joint Shevardnadze-Baker declaration condemned once more the "rude and illegitimate invasion of Kuwait by the armed forces of Iraq." (42) Although there was no lack of outspoken domestic Soviet opposition to the pro-American and anti-Iraqi policy, (43) Gorbachev's meeting with the U.S. President George Bush in Helsinki on 9 September 1990 demonstrated its further continuity and development. According to a Russian scholar, although "officially there was no change in the positions developed earlier. the political meaning was new" and the meeting "marked a watershed in the policy of the two powers." (44) In spite of all his domestic opponents, Gorbachev decided to support "every crisis-related action of the United States, thus giving Washington a free hand on military matters." (45) The USSR also subsequently voted for the Security Council U.N. resolution 678 of 29 November 1990 which called for "all necessary means" to be used to end the occupation of Kuwait.

As a general understanding it included or even implied the use of military force, although the U.S. agreed not to mention it explicitly in order to enable the Soviet Union to vote for the motion and for China to abstain, rather than using its veto. (46) The Soviet government also let the Americans transfer most of NATO's military might from Europe to the Middle East, thus assuring their easy and painless victory over the Iraqi army. (47)

However, the negative reactions of the various groups in Soviet society, including Muslim circles in the country, against the new Middle Eastern policy (48) did not pass without having an impact. On 20 December 1990, the main representative of the pro-American foreign policy in Gorbachev's team, Shevardnadze, was forced to resign "as a result of extreme pressure" (49) and a mission to save the remnants of the "special relations" with parts of the Arab World including the remnants of the mutual "credit of trust" with Iraq, was committed to a prominent Middle Eastern expert, Evgenii Primakov. Although supportive of the general goals of Gorbachev's Perestroika, nevertheless from November 1990 he opposed Shevardnadze, asking for a more independent policy in the Middle East and protection of Soviet relations with the Arab World. (50)

Moscow was informed of the start of hostilities by the U.S. Secretary of State only one hour before they started on the night of 17 January 1991 (51) and its reaction to them was subsequently largely negative. At the end of January 1991, the new Soviet foreign minister, A. Bessmertnykh "cautioned the Americans against destroying Iraq rather than concentrating on the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait" (52) and the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist party called on Gorbachev to "take the necessary steps" to bring about an end to the bloodshed. (53) On 12 February 1991, Primakov left for Baghdad as a special presidential envoy and as a result of his negotiations a Soviet plan for a cease fire and an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait was submitted. (54) The plan was further elaborated later on in talks with Tariq Aziz in Moscow 21-22 February 1991 and in addition to the full withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, it provided for the lifting of U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq after most Iraqi troops had left Kuwait, and international supervision over its implementation. (55) However, the Soviet diplomatic effort caused an extremely negative American reaction "on a scope unprecedented since Gorbachev's coming to power," (56) and President Bush stated that the Soviet proposal "falls well short of what would be required." (57) With Gorbachev's approval, Primakov submitted a revised proposal which took into account the American objections and Saddam Hussein accepted the revised proposal on 23 February 1991. (58) However, as he did not accept an American ultimatum from 22 February 1991, the U.S.-led land attack then started. According to a Russian scholar: "A last minute agreement reached between Mikhail Gorbachev and Saddam Hussein on Iraqi troop withdrawal from Kuwait was turned down by the U.S., which reciprocated with an ultimatum unacceptable to Iraq." (59)

Facing a fait accompli, the disappointed Gorbachev had to accept the logic of the emerging unipolar world and the collapsing Soviet Union was both too weak and too internally divided to react strongly. (60) In fact it cooperated fully with the U.S. in the following dramatic events and its representative joined with the members of the victorious coalition at the Security Council in dictating the harsh terms of surrender to Baghdad, particularly Resolution 687 of 3 April 1991. (61) In the Sanctions Committee which had been established in order to supervise its implementation, the USSR and later Russia as its legal successor, also became represented. However, its real role was quite negligible and Soviet-Iraqi relations deteriorated even further due to official Iraqi support for the unsuccessful coup in Moscow in August 1991. (62)

The still existing USSR became a co-chairman of the Madrid Peace Conference in November 1991, but its role there was described by the well known Russian journalist, Stanislav Kondrashev as "the last tango". As he then predicted, "Our next dance will be something else. We are no longer partners as we have been recently and no longer rivals as we were for a long period before. To call a spade a spade, the U.S. has become our protector." (63)

Two months after the Madrid Conference, the Soviet Union finally disintegrated and its successor state, Russia, inherited both its close links with the region and most of its political and economic assets, which by then, however, had greatly diminished.

The Kozyrev Period, 1991-1995

Since its inception in December 1991, up to the first months of 2001, post-Soviet Russian foreign policy, including its relations with Iraq, has undergone substantial transformations and some of its goals and directions can now be discerned and analyzed. Compared with the Soviet era, its first and most striking feature is its weakness. At present the country has no material basis to support its international stature and aspirations. Its population is less than 50% of the previous Soviet population and as early as 1995, its GNP was already more than ten times smaller than that of the U.S.A. (64) From the point of view of its foreign policy, at least equally important is the virtual collapse of its military might. Both unsuccessful operations in Chechenya and the submarine Kursk catastrophe bear witness to the very serious shortcomings of the Russian Army and Navy. According to reliable American research, employing virtually every standard used to measure military capabilities, Russia's military is in deep trou ble caused primarily by a sharp decline in defense expenditure, which is down 80% from Soviet levels. (65)

What was also politically important in the 1992-1995 period was that the people who surrounded Yeltsin were mainly of a neo-liberal and an occidentalist orientation. They wanted to reject the Soviet heritage as much as possible, and as the first Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev put it, to join the "civilized world." (66) Avoidance of links with the compromised Iraqi regime was seen by them almost as a test of political correctness and the Iraqi ambassador even complained to the group of Russian Members of Parliament that when he wanted to start talks with the Russian government about the Iraqi debt which amounted to 7 billion U.S. dollars, none of the Russian leaders wanted to receive him. (67) As a result of Russia's participation in the sanctions, its economic relations with Iraq were greatly curtailed and because a number of previous obligations had not been fulfilled, it lost a profit of about 9 billion U.S. dollars. (68)

However, due to a number of international and domestic factors, the above situation started to change quickly from the end of 1993 and the beginning of 1994. (69)

(i) First, the Russian political elite was deeply disappointed by the lack of the expected generous economic help from the U.S. and its allies, and their recognition of Russian interests in the former Soviet bloc area. Feeling rejected by the West -- especially after the unsuccessful effort to block NATO expansion in East-Central Europe, Russian leaders started to look for alternatives to their previous pro-American foreign policy. (70)

(ii) Also "new" Russia did not get any substantial financial help from the wealthy and pro-western Arab oil-producing countries - particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and the return to the "radical" states such as Iraq and Libya, and in the 1990s also Iran, in fact became an economic necessity. (71)

(iii) Iraq's strategic location at the Persian Gulf and its proximity to the former Soviet borders made this country too important to be ignored by any government in Moscow - especially in view of its influence on the new Islamic states in the post-Soviet space and the substantial Muslim population in Russia itself. (72)

(iv) Last but not least, since the end of 1992, domestic opposition to the pro-Atlantist foreign policy, which was symbolized by Andrei Kozyrev, started to be increasingly voiced by the supporters of a Eurasian orientation, nationalists, and communists in the Russian parliament, the Duma and public opinion in general. After the elections won by them in December 1992, even President Yeltsin demanded that a more 'patriotic' foreign policy be conducted. (73)

When on 27 June 1993, the U.S. Air Force bombarded Baghdad, despite the Russian government's official approval, the Russian press was unanimous in its condemnation of the operation. "The most deplorable thing is that American piracy was justified by Russian leaders," wrote the Communist Pravda. (74) The Liberal Izvestia described it as "an act of retribution which looked more like muscle-flexing" and expressed an opinion that "our multi-polar and interdependent world" should not give any state "the unlimited right to act as supreme judge and bearer of the ultimate truth." (75) In a similar vein, Komsomalskaya Pravda suggested that "the White House needs an enemy" and indicated that "had Saddam Hussein been killed the U.S. would have had to find a new villain." (76)

Also in June 1993 there took place in Prague a first official meeting of the deputy foreign ministers of Russia and Iraq. (77) As a practical outcome of this, an agreement was achieved in August 1993 on the continuation by Russia of all work contracts signed during the Soviet period and on further economic cooperation. (78) The next year brought a virtual flurry of mutual visits and high level contacts between the two countries. Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister, Riyadh al-Qaisi had been in Moscow on 21 February 1994 and twice in August 1994 (9-10 and 29 August). (79) Following in his footsteps between August and December of the same year, Iraq's deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, a man who has been for many years in charge of Iraqi foreign policy and who is a personal confidante of Saddam Hussein went to Russia three times. (80) His December visit was conspicuously simultaneous with a sharp deterioration in Russian-Western relations which took place then. As a Russian journalist noticed: "It was no accident tha t the arrival of the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister took place at a time when there was a cooling down of Russian-U.S. relations (which in this case took the form of open clashes of Russian and American positions at the C.S.C.E. summit in Budapest." (81)

The official Russian position on sanctions against Iraq also began to change. In June and July 1994 its representative in the Security Council, S. Lavrov started to argue that the Security Council should respond adequately to the positive steps which had been undertaken by Iraq and to weaken if not completely abolish the sanctions. (82) Replying to the opposition to his motion by some Western representatives, the Russian Ambassador expressed the opinion that the U.N. resolutions should be complied with not only by the countries which were originally addressed, but also by the members of the Security Council, including the U.S. and the U.K. (83) During the July 1994 U.N. Security Council session, Russia stressed the necessity for parallel and balanced fulfillment of legal obligations by all parties to the Iraq-Kuwait conflict. (84) It also involved recognition by Iraq of independence and the existing borders of Kuwait which official Iraqi propaganda called the 19 provinces of the country. In order to get Iraqi acceptance of those requests and to regain at least some influence in the area, Russian Foreign Minister A. Kozyrev, who just a year earlier had called Saddam Hussein an "international ruffian" (85) visited Baghdad twice in the fall of 1994 (October-November). As a result of his talks with the Iraqi leaders in October 1994, Iraq for the first time officially recognized the international status of Kuwait as a sovereign nation. (86) Kozyrev's diplomatic success was still not well received by the Americans, who saw it as harmful to their interests in the region. They were particularly displeased both because of the possible damage to their propaganda war against Iraq and because of the political success of Russian diplomacy in the region, which was dominated by them. (87) As Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Posuvaliuk stated in his briefing on 1 August 1995, Russia probably did more for the normalization of Iraq-Kuwait relations than any other state and did not want to play one country against the other. (88)

In May 1995, the Russian Parliament-Duma adopted a resolution calling for the removal of the oil embargo against Iraq. (89) However, the resolution was not binding for the Russian authorities and had rather symbolic importance. The Russian leaders generally wanted to preserve a kind of balance in their links with Iraq and Kuwait and the West, and while demanding from Baghdad compliance with the relevant U.N. resolutions, including releasing all Kuwaiti prisoners of war, and compensation for lost or stolen property, (90) nevertheless preserved and further developed cooperation with Iraq. Particularly promising for the Russian side became cooperation in the field of the oil industry. In April 1995 an intergovernmental agreement was concluded which provided for Russian drilling in the oilfields of West Qurna and North Rumaili for a total amount of 15 billion U.S. dollars. (91)

In March 1997 another major contract between the Iraqi company SKOP and a group of Russian companies was signed. It provided for the development of the second stage of the West Qurna oilfields, with extractive deposits of oil amounting to one billion tons. (92) According to the estimations of the Iraqi experts, the profits of the Russian companies might be as high as 70 billion U.S. dollars. (93) However, it is necessary to remember that at least from a legal point of view, all those projects might start only after the end of the U.N.-imposed sanctions on Iraq (94) and that the way to that goal seems still to be quite far and uncertain. For Iraq, at least at present, giving the Russian companies lucrative contracts seems to be a way of stimulating Russia to make more efforts toward the lifting of the sanctions. (95)

Russians are also interested in repayment by Iraq of its debt which (96) amount to about 7 billion U.S. dollars. For neo-capitalist Russia, which for over a decade has been in a dire economic situation, all this money is obviously quite important. However, Minister Posuvalyuk stressed that economic reasons were not the exclusive causes of the Russian involvement. (97) Iraq, he said, is "very geographically close to the former Soviet borders and even Russia itself. It is not a far away country where one can play its political games. The developments there have an impact on the political life in Russia, including its domestic problems." (98) It was to be expected that in June 1995 Minister Kozyrev stated that Moscow and Baghdad had "coordinated a course aimed at ending Iraq's international isolation," still contingent on its compliance with the U.N. Resolutions. (99)

But despite his efforts in the 1994-95 period, Minister Kozyrev was still widely blamed for the negligence of the Middle Eastern goals and interests of the country. (100) According to many Russian scholars and journalists, his policy had caused a noticeable decrease in Russia's prestige and political influence and a loss of the very substantial economic gains. (101) His replacement in December 1995 by Eugenii Primakov, a noted Middle Eastern scholar and a man with a first hand knowledge of the Arab World including Iraq, was thus welcomed by them as a positive turn and a chance for improvement of Russian (102) policy in the region.

The Primakov Period, 1996-1999

Primakov, as Foreign Minister from January 1996 to September 1998 and Prime Minister from then until May 1999, is credited by Russian scholars and journalists with a clear formulation and introduction of new ideas and directions in Russian foreign policy. (103) According to a Russian scholar: "the geostrategic principles which were established by him basically continued after his departure from the Prime Minister's office. In fact there is no alternative to them and they correspond to Russia's geopolitical aspirations and its new political class which became more pragmatic and less pro-western." (104)

Expressing a wide consensus among the Russian political elite and following trends which were already noticeable during the last two years before he came to power, Primakov wanted to stress both the greatness and global interest of Russia. As he stated during his first press conference as Russian Foreign Minister, "Russian foreign policy should correspond to its great power status and be active in all azimuths." (105) This obviously needs to include the Middle East where, as in October 1997 one senior Israeli official said, after his meeting with Primakov, "he made [it] clear that he wants Russia to demonstrate its sense of being a power in the region." (106) For a number of geopolitical and economic reasons, Iraq had to become one of his priorities and in addition, he had long established personal links with that country. Between 1968 and 1970 he worked as a Soviet press correspondent in Baghdad and since then has had friendly relations with Saddam Hussein. (107) As he admitted himself, he even mediated betw een him and the Kurdish nationalists. (108) Primakov's role as Gorbachev's envoy during the Second Gulf War was also well remembered in Iraq and when he assumed the post of Russian Foreign Minister, this was welcomed there with great satisfaction. (109)

The first major test of his relations with Iraq came in the fall of 1996 when on 4 September American cruise missiles were launched against Iraqi territory. The U.S. government claimed that the reason for that was an Iraqi military incursion into the specially protected zone in its northern region which is largely populated by Kurds who want to separate from Baghdad. According to Russian sources, however, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Posuvaliuk had already received guarantees on 2 September from Tariq Aziz that the Iraqi troops who had entered Kurdish territory had been ordered to withdraw on 3-4 September. (110) When on 2 September the Americans indicated to the Russians that "a U.S. strike was inevitable," Moscow opposed, arguing that because of their efforts, the "situation was basically moving towards a denouement." (111) However, that was followed by U.S. and U.K. bombardment which predictably caused a strong Russian reaction. Not only did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs protest, but the govern ment as a whole issued a special statement calling the action both "inadequate and unacceptable." (112) Russian Iraqi political and economic cooperation still further expanded, and in order to stay in touch with Primakov, Tariq Aziz visited Moscow on 11 November 1996, between 4-6 March 1997, and on 9 May 1997. (113) Also, since then Russia, together with some other states, especially France and China, created a kind of "pro-Iraqi lobby" in the U.N. Security Council in order to weaken the sanctions and to constrain U.S. action against that country. (114)

Nevertheless, the Americans successfully frustrated all their efforts. The diplomatic battle in the U.N. Security Council on the report by the U.N. Special Commission and the resolution on Iraq focused on the request by Russia, France and some other states to include in it a clear statement on the many positive steps taken by Iraq and its cooperation with the disarmament program, and on their opposition to the additional sanctions against that country. (115) The final text of Resolution 1134 which was adopted by the majority of Security Council members on 23 October 1997 did not introduce additional sanctions directly, but also did not mention Iraqi positive cooperation. (116) Consequently, Russia considered it to be both "unbalanced and not objective" and together with France, China, Kenya and Egypt, abstained on the motion. (117) The situation was further aggravated when on 29 October 1997 Iraq ordered all American inspectors of the U.N. Special Commission (the UNSCOM) to leave in a week and demanded the ha lt of U.S. air surveillance flights over its territory. Russia, together with France, then issued a statement on 1 November 1997 which condemned Iraqi actions but stressed that all new steps concerning Iraq should be undertaken only with the authorization of the Security Council. (118) The statement also made it clear that the outcome of Iraqi cooperation with the UNSCOM should be "lifting of the oil embargo and full reintegration of Iraq into the international community." (119)

The same goals were reiterated in the Joint Russian-Iraqi statement on 19 November 1997. The statement, which was worked out by Primakov and Tariq Aziz, promised that:

On the basis of Iraq's fulfillment of the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, Russia. will energetically work for the earliest possible lifting of the sanctions against Iraq and, above all, for putting into effect point 22 of Resolution No. 687. . To this end, active steps will be taken to increase the effectiveness of the Special Commission's work while showing respect for the sovereignty and security of Iraq. (120)

With that statement in his hand, Primakov called to Geneva on 20 November 1997 those representatives of the five countries that are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and persuaded them to accept the arrangement prepared by him. (121) After the talks ended, he concluded with understandable satisfaction: "this is a great success for Russian diplomacy, one that is recognized by absolutely everyone. . It was achieved without the use of force and without a show of force it was achieved through diplomatic means." (122) His satisfaction was shared by virtually all Russian scholars and journalists, who indicated that this success was "the first of its kind in the past few years" and that "this time Moscow . played the role of a world power that averted what at first had seemed to be an inevitable war in the Persian Gulf." (123)

Due to Russian mediation in November 1997, the new outbreak of violence was avoided, but the underlying conflict was not solved. In fact it soon reignited again and it focused both on the dispute over the UNSCOM's inspectors' access to presidential palace sites and the widely held allegations that the Americans and the Israelis used UNSCOM as a shield for their own intelligence penetration. (124) On 11 January 1998, Baghdad blocked inspections by the UNSCOM team led by American Scott Ritter, who indeed later admitted his cooperation with the Israeli agencies. (125) Iraq argued that the Special Commission had too many American members and did not work "sharing respect for the sovereignty and security of Iraq," as had been agreed upon before. When the Americans and their British allies wanted to use their military might, Russia once again argued that a diplomatic solution in the framework of the U.N. system should be found. The Russian position was by and large in line with the opinions of the Arab World, Franc e, China and the great majority of the other U.N. members. As in February 1998 the Russian Minister of Defense Igor Sergeyev indicated to his American counterpart William Cohen, during his visit to Russia, that Moscow believed that the Iraqi crisis represented a threat to vital Russian national interests and it could not be approached only in the context of American-Iraqi relations. (126) With the very few exceptions of "radical democrats" who have always been pro-American, (127) Russian public opinion thought that in a war against Iraq, the U.S. "would be pursuing purely hegemonistic aims" and that although "one can condemn Hussein's totalitarian regime, and demands that Iraq destroy its weapons of mass destruction . one cannot hold hostage to American interests the entire long suffering Iraqi people . who will be the first casualties of American bombing." (128)

On 3 February 1998, Minister of Foreign Affairs E. Primakov approved the draft of a resolution on the Iraqi crisis which was adopted next day by the Duma. The resolution condemned the trend towards the use of force against Iraq and emphasized the need to resolve the crisis by peaceful means. It also particularly stressed that it was not permissible to use tactical nuclear weapons, which the Americans then prepared to use in their planned operation. (129) The same day, President Yeltsin warned U.S. President Clinton that by his threats of military action against Iraq he "might run right into a new world war." (130)

Russia had again been actively mediating in the new round of crises and Deputy Foreign Minister V. Posuvalyuk had shuttled between Moscow and Baghdad. However, in view of the very serious situation which was dangerous for regional peace, on 13 February 1998 Primakov concluded that "the time has come for a visit to Baghdad by the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan." (130) As he then asserted, "one cannot talk about failed diplomatic efforts or reach a verdict before Annan goes to Baghdad." (131)

His mission there, which took place later in February 1998, was strongly supported by Russian diplomacy. It was none other than Primakov who at Kofi Annan's request had persuaded Saddam Hussein to back down from insisting on a time limit for inspection of his presidential sites. (132) The Memorandum on Mutual Understanding between the U.N. and Iraq, which was signed by Kofi Annan with the Iraqi authorities on 23 February 1998, provided for unhindered work by the UNSCOM inspectors in exchange for recognition of Iraqi sovereignty and a comprehensive review of sanctions. The Memorandum was hailed by the Russian government and was unanimously approved by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1154 on 2 March 1998. (133) However, the Resolution also included a clause threatening the "severest consequences" if Iraq reneged on the agreement. (134) Nevertheless, according to its Russian interpretation, it did not authorize use of force without the previous approval of the Security Council. (135)

The problem of interpretation of the clause became very controversial when on 5 August 1998 Iraq suspended its cooperation with the UNSCOM. Baghdad argued that its inspectors had intentionally delayed completion of their task in order to continue the sanctions, and that the Security Council could not have obtained an adequate picture of the situation from them. (136) In view of the new round of crises, Russia reiterated its position, according to which Iraq should fulfil all its obligations which were imposed by the Security Council and cooperate in a constructive way with the UNSCOM. As a result, the Iraqi disarmament file would be closed and, according to point 22, Resolution 687, the Security Council would be able to remove the oil embargo. (137) At that particular time, the most important thing was preservation of restraint by all parties in order to avoid further deterioration of the difficult situation. (138) The crisis was then temporarily solved and the UNSCOM restarted its work in September. After th e new short conflict, Baghdad gave its solemn promise to stop obstructing the Special Commission's work in the future. (139) The Russian position and Russian-Iraqi cooperation were confirmed again by Edward Primakov, who was then Prime Minister of the country during Tariq Aziz's visit to Moscow on 7 December 1998. (140)

Both Russian intentions and Iraqi expectations, however, became frustrated when on 17 December 1998 the U.S. and the U.K. started to bombard Iraqi territory. According to Russian sources, this time the attack was not provoked by any Iraqi actions and took place exactly at the time when an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council which was convened at Russia's request, discussed the tensions between Baghdad and UNSCOM. (141) The attack was preceded by the provocative actions of the U.N. Special Commission head Robert Butler who, during the last week before the events, deliberately became confrontational with the Iraqi authorities. On 15 December 1998 he submitted a quite biased report to the U.N. Security Council and immediately ordered his staff to leave Baghdad. As the Russian press indicated, "only about 24 hours passed between Butler's report and the first strike." (142)

Russian politicians of all orientations reacted to the events with harsh condemnation and protests. According to President Yeltsin's statement, the U.N. Security Council resolutions did not provide any authorization for such actions. (143) Yeltsin considered it to be "a gross violation of the U.N. Charter and universally accepted principles of international law" and called for its immediate end. (144) Primakov stressed that the bombardment was not provoked by Iraq this time and that the sole responsibility rested on the U.S. administration which acted against Russia's warnings and advice. He characterized UNSCOM chief Richard Butler's behaviour as scandalous and announced that Russia would call an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council. (145) On 18 December 1998 the Russian parliament-Duma asked President Yeltsin to:

(1) get Russia out of participation in the sanctions against Iraq imposed by the U.N. Security Council Resolutions as all of them "have been trampled upon by the recent aggression." And to

(2) take all necessary means in order to re-establish fully normal economic and military-technological relations with Iraq. (146)

Russian politicians were particularly concerned that, as President Yeltsin indicated, they were "essentially dealing with an action that undermines the entire international security system," (147) and that the voice of Russia was apparently neglected. Expressing those fears, powerful Russian businessman and C.I.S. Executive Secretary Boris Berezovsky openly admitted that "a new page was opened in a world order in which the dominant role of the U.S. is absolute," (148) and that "Russia joined a number of countries that don't have to be reckoned with." (149)

In addition to the concern about the shape of the international system and the place of their country in it, Russian politicians also defended Iraq because of the more direct economic interests. According to some Russian diplomats, "Iraq is virtually the only place on earth where the interests of Russia and the U.S. are not simply at cross purposes, but essentially in rigid opposition to each other." (150) A struggle is going on between Russian and American oil companies for prospects of exploitation of Iraq's natural resources and for investment in that country. (151) Due to hostility between the U.S. and the Baghdad regime, American companies had found themselves at a disadvantage and Russian companies strongly supported by Russian diplomacy had won many lucrative contracts. (152) Since Resolution 986 of 14 April 1995 had allowed Iraq to sell $2 billion worth of oil over a period of six months in order to pay for the civil imports which were necessary for the population ("oil for food" program), Russian com panies in fact got the most favorable treatment by the Iraqi authorities. (153) Their share in exporting Iraqi oil during the first six stages of the "oil for food" program, amounted to about 40% of the total volume of Iraqi oil exports. (154) Between 1998 and 1999, Russian companies also won first place due to the high volume of civil goods delivered to Iraq (about $500 million U.S.) (155) and in 2000 all Iraq's orders to Russia exceeded $20 billion U.S. (155) Consequently, since the mid 1990s, the Russians have believed that exactly because of their economic success and even better prospects for the future profit, "Washington will now do everything in its power to prevent an easing of the embargo." (156) Because of the Iraqi government's guarantees to pay the debt it owed to Russia as its first priority, (157) Moscow was additionally interested in the prevention of war and further destruction and in the end of the sanctions.

When the American and British bombardment ended on 20 December 1998, President Yeltsin hailed an end to "senseless, unlawful action" and called for "extensive aid in the form of food, medicine and all the other things which are needed to lead a peaceful existence" for the "Iraqi people, the victims of the bombing." (158)

And yet on all these occasions there were some clear limits to the level of Russia's independent action and to its denial of American pressures. Despite all its efforts towards the lifting of sanctions against Iraq, the Russian government did not follow the call of the Russian parliament, the Duma, and did not abolish them unilaterally, and while trying to protect Iraq against new American military interventions, Russia at the same time stressed that Iraq should comply fully with all relevant U.N. resolutions and submit to further UNSCOM disarmament inspections. (159) In spite of all the harsh protests against the U.S. and U.K. air strikes against Iraq, an "informed source in Russian diplomatic circles" told the press on 19 December 1998 that "a return to confrontation [with the U.S.] is not worth it for the very reason that it is not in our interests. (160) Even earlier, on December 18, President Yeltsin's spokesman, Dimitry Yakushkin stated to the media that "There can be no talk of a rift between Russia an d the U.S. and Britain . we mustn't slip into the rhetoric of confrontation," (161) and Boris Berezovski called for "separation of our emotions from a rational assessment of events." (162)

On 12 May 1999, Primakov was forced to leave the Prime Minister's office, but even after his dismissal, Russian policy toward Iraq, although without his undoubted personal involvement and expertise, has remained basically unchanged. On 1 June 1999, the Director of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Press Office, V.O. Rahmanin, again mentioned "the persistent and continuous efforts of Russian diplomacy" to achieve "a political solution to the Iraqi problem" on the basis of "lifting sanctions from Iraq." (163) In their search for that, in April 1999 Russia, China and France submitted a draft of the Security Council's resolution which proposed replacing "Butler's Special Commission which compromised itself" by a new system of international monitoring over the Iraqi military potential with simultaneous lifting of most of the economic sanctions. (164) According to it, the oil embargo and the ban on civil imports into the country would come to an end, although the ban on all kinds of military cooperation and strict control over the delivery of double purpose goods would persist. (165) The proposals were opposed by the U.S. which instead supported a draft resolution which was submitted at the same time by the U.K. and the Netherlands, and which wanted to preserve the Special Commission and the regime of sanctions basically intact. (166) According to Russian sources, despite the differences between the two positions, Russian diplomacy aimed to avoid an open clash between them and looked for a compromise. (167) After a prolonged stalemate, on 17 December 1999 the Security Council adopted Resolution 1284 which provided for some improvement of the humanitarian conditions in Iraq, but according to Moscow still contained "ambiguous wording" which allowed postponing of the lifting of sanctions. (168) As a result of that, Russia, China, France and Malaysia, the latter then being a non-permanent Security Council member, abstained from voting, (169) and the Russian representative indicated that the effectiveness of the reso lution would be shown when it is put into practice. (170) Even earlier, on 28 September 1999, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister V.O. Sredin reiterated the Russian position on Iraq, calling for a more rapid lifting of the sanctions on the basis of Iraqi fulfillment of the U.N. Security Council resolutions. (171) He characterized the American and British bombardment of Iraq in December 1998 as "absolutely illegal" and made them responsible for the "destruction of the unique mechanism of international control" over the Iraqi military potential. In October 1999, the Russian Minister of Trade and Energy, Victor Kaluzhnyu went to Baghdad and passed a personal letter to Saddam Hussein from Yeltsin, in which he declared himself to be in favor of an end to the embargo. (172)

President Yeltsin resigned in the New Year of 2000 and his place was taken by Vladimir Putin, who started a new period in Russian post-Soviet history.

Primakov's Iraqi politics, like his foreign policy in general, was characterized by an effort toward self-assertiveness, a continuity of the country's old traditions, and considerable self-restraint caused by its present weakness and general crisis. Under somewhat different circumstances, President Putin and his Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov's present Russian policy toward Iraq is largely following the same direction, though perhaps in an even more cautious and circumspect way. In addition to the still increasing general weakness of the country and the fact that neither Putin nor his Foreign Minister Ivanov has any personal knowledge of and links with Iraq and the Middle East as a whole, there are two more important political factors which undoubtedly cannot be without impact on their policy toward Iraq.

(1) In marked contrast to the Soviet era and to a certain point even the post-Soviet Primakov period, Israel is a truly desired strategically in the Middle East for the present Russian ruling elite. (173) According to A. Malygin, who teaches at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are no objectively contradictory interests between Russia and Israel, and their cooperation will be further promoted by the Russian language diaspora in Israel and the common threat of Islamic extremism. (174) In addition, cooperation with Israel seems more profitable to the Russians than cooperation with any other country in the Middle East. Only Israel has such access to modern Western technology and both the Israeli and the world Jewish diaspora international influences are incomparably stronger than those of any other state in the region. (175)

(2) Another important factor is the new and much better Russian relations with two of Iraq's neighbors: Iran and Turkey, when compared with the past. On 1 December 2000, under Putin's leadership, Moscow repudiated the Gore-Chernomyrdin Agreement of 30 June 1995 and decided to resume arms sales to Iran. (176) It was not only repudiation of the agreement itself, but also a sign of intent to reconsider the basic tenets of Russian foreign policy of the mid l990s, when that policy was led by Yeltsin, Chernomyrdin and Kozyrev. (177) As the Russian press indicated: "within Moscow political circles, both Indian and Iranian experiences have helped shape the conviction that never again should relations with any of Moscow's partners serve as a bargaining chip for trade with the U.S. or any other country." (178) The geopolitical goal in the case of success is "an informal Indian-Iranian-Russian alliance, one that will make the vulnerable 'soft underbelly' of the CIS a firm foundation for the post-Soviet space." (179) Alt hough there are still a number of outstanding political problems between Russia and Turkey, (180) from the economic viewpoint, Turkey is still the most important Russian partner in the region and both countries already have advanced cooperation in the fields of security and the struggle against terrorism. (181) In view of all these developments, Iraq's strategic value for Russia, which was so important for it in the past, has now apparently declined. (182)

It does not necessarily mean that Iraq has now become unimportant to Russia and that Putin's administration has not paid much attention to that country. Speaking to the press on the 10th anniversary of the Second Gulf War, Sergei Zhiravlev, the head of the Russian Society for Friendship with Iraq, expressed the opinion that when Mikhail Gorbachev had failed to defend Russia's national interests at the time of the Second Gulf War, the current Russian government appears to be taking a different stand. (183) Although obviously optimistic, his view was nevertheless not quite inaccurate. For a number of political and economic reasons, the Iraqi case probably represents one of the few issues on which present Russian leaders are willing to openly and persistently disagree with the U.S. and its allies. (184) During his first visit to Moscow since Putin came to power in June 2000, Tariq Aziz was told by the Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei V. Ivanov that: "Russia continues to apply maximum pressure for the qu ickest end, and then the permanent lifting of international sanctions against Iraq." (185) The Russian side also stressed the importance of the reinstallation of international monitoring over Iraqi military programs which were forbidden after the Second Gulf War and the need for its full cooperation with the new organ of supervision: The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). (186) However, in the Russian view, UNMOVIC should be strictly controlled by the U.N. Security Council in order to avoid the fate of its discredited predecessor, UNSCOM, which was headed by R. Butler, and no external forces should interfere in Iraq's domestic problems. (187)

During his next visit to Moscow in November 2000, Tareq Aziz had long and reportedly difficult talks with the Russian leaders, but Russian-Iraqi friendship was not put into question. (188) Before his departure, he said on Russian National T.V.:

For the last 10 years, some people have held jobs in the Russian government without knowing the country's history of relations with its Soviet-era friends. . But. now Russian authorities can feel the traditions extending over the centuries of good relations with the East, with Iraq, the Arab World, India and China. (189)

Last February, when the American and British air forces bombarded Iraq again, President Putin stated that such "unprovoked actions do not help settle the situation regarding Iraq,, (190) and immediately called the French President, Jacques Chirac regarding the "impermissibility" of the actions. (191) The Russian Foreign Ministry issued an official statement criticizing the recent military intervention (192) and Dimitrii Rogozin, the Chairman of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, went as far as to announce that he will ask the Duma to pass a resolution calling on President Putin to unilaterally lift the sanctions on Iraq in response to the bombardment. (193)

In the final outcome, however, the Duma on 22 February 2001 approved by a vote of 359 to 2 a resolution calling on President Putin just to seek a U.N. decision to lift the sanctions regime against Iraq and it rejected Rogozin's original proposal. (194) Two days earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko admitted that it is "'virtually impossible' for Russia . to raise the issue of U.S. and British air strikes in the U.N. Security Council." (195) Russia's weak position was more noticeable now than during the previous U.S. and British attacks in 1996 and 1998.

The apparently still unsuccessful Russian efforts to have the sanctions lifted or even temporarily suspended caused easily predictable dissatisfaction in Iraq, who started to threaten a cancellation of a contract with the Russian company Lukoil for the development of Iraqi oil fields. (196) The Russian answer to that was a good deal of diplomatic and political activity which was, however, of largely symbolic importance. Members of the Duma began to form a Russian-Iraqi inter-parliamentary commission on bilateral cooperation. (197) and there is a lively exchange of delegations between the two countries. (198)

In addition to the geopolitical and economic causes which have been discussed above, the Russian political elite paid attention to Iraq also due to strong Russian public opinion support for that country. According to a recent poll conducted by the All Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, which was published on 2 March 2001, 58 percent of Russians were upset and angry about the February 2001 American and British attack on Iraq. Only 2 percent of those polled approved of the attack. (199)

Bearing in mind today's very low level of interest in, and even less sympathy for the Arabs among the Eastern Europeans, Russian popular support for Iraq is an almost puzzling phenomenon and might probably be partly explained by their feeling of solidarity with their former ally of the Soviet era and a dislike of American arrogance. However, it is also necessary to remember that "Moscow now is far from speaking 'with one voice on Iraq'" (200) and that there are also some influential circles there which are ready to sacrifice Iraq on the altar of the better relations with the West - particularly with the U.S. (201) Since the mid 1990s, they are just a minority, but because of the still volatile political situation in the country, their influence might increase again in the future.

Development of the political and economic relations between post-Soviet Russia and Iraq could be seen as one of the most intriguing and complex examples of its foreign policy transformation in the search for a proper place in the world community. Since the mid 1990s, the country's new political leadership aims to find a way out of the political crisis and humiliation of the Gorbachev-early Yeltsin period and to restore its previous international status. In marked contrast to the Soviet era, the new Russia's foreign policy is conceived as non-ideological and is avowedly based on its national interests, which are understood mainly in strategic and economic categories. For both of these reasons Iraq is a very important country for Russia because of its geopolitical location, the Islamic factor and its natural and financial resources. Moreover, the struggle for an end to the oil embargo on Iraq and against U.S. military intervention became one of the main focal points in the Russian game against U.S. world hegemo ny and the unipolar world system which is based on it.

Bearing in mind its present general weakness in all its efforts, Russia has nevertheless been cautious and moderate. There are quite clear limits which it did not want to overstep, and in all its actions it has always called for restraint, use of peaceful means and strict adherence to bona fidae understood international obligations. In marked contrast to its Soviet past, Russia wants to be seen now as a "peacemaker and a factor of stability in the region," (202) and to work in accordance with and in the framework of the broad international consensus. (203)

Iraq is also a country of crucial interest to the Russian economy. In the first six months of 1999, Russian companies exported 43.0 percent of Iraqi oil which was allowed to be sold according to the U.N. "oil for food" program. (204) and at least two of them: Lukoil and Slavneft, already have their offices in Baghdad. (205) For Russia, whose own federal budget in 1999 amounted to only $24 billion U.S., Iraq's orders which now exceed $20 billion U.S. are considered to be vital sources of income. (206)

In its tough struggle for the restoration of its independence and preservation of its boundaries, Iraq is also apparently "gambling on Russia as the main power which may help to end the sanctions," (207) and for the last ten years has been constantly showing Moscow its "special sympathies". (208) In 2000 Saddam Hussein elevated Iraqi-Russian relations to the rank of a strategic partnership (209) and on 18 March 2001 he told the Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev who was visiting Baghdad that "he hopes to meet President Putin in the near future." (210)

This international configuration which is based on the temporary convergence of the national interests of both countries does not need, however, to be either stable or lasting. Russians are prone to believe that however peaceful and moderate their policy on Iraqi issues are going to be, they will still need to face American counteraction and hostility. (211) In their view Washington will almost certainly use any pretext or subterfuge in order to prolong the sanctions and hinder the full restoration of Russian-Iraqi economic cooperation. (212) Moscow is also uncertain regarding how long the Iraqi leadership will continue its present pro-Russian policy. The Americans are putting tremendous pressure on Iraq which is both open and secret, and after Saddam Hussein's departure from the political arena, Iraqi foreign policy could also change its directions and priorities. (213) Even now Baghdad apparently seems quite disappointed by the ineffectiveness of Russian efforts to end the embargo and by the reluctance of t he Russian companies to start their work in Iraq immediately. (214) The new Russian partnership with Israel and the greatly improved links with Iran and Turkey may also have a negative impact on future Russian-Iraqi relations. However, what is most important for their future now seems to be the decisions of the new U.S. administration and the question is how far will President George W. Bush and his advisors go in order to impose their will on both countries?

Tareq Y. Ismael is a Professor of political science at the University of Calgary (Canada) and Director of the International Centre for Contemporary Middle Eastern Studies, Eastern Mediterranean University, (Turkish Republic of Cyprus), and Andrej Kreutz is an instructor in political science at the University of Calgary.

(1.) In 1916-1917 during World War I, the Russian Army even occupied the north-eastern part of present-day Iraq, which at that time had been a province of the Ottoman Empire (Haim Shemesh, Soviet-Iraqi Relations, 1968-1988: In the Shadow of the Iraq-Iran Conflict Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1992), p. 14, f. 2.

(2.) Oles M. Smolansky with Bettie M. Smolansky, The USSR and Iraq: The Soviet Quest for Influence (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1981), p. 63.

(3.) Majid Khadduri, Independent Iraq 1932-1958: A Study in Iraqi Relations (London: Oxford University Press, 1960), p. 252.

(11.) Pravda (Moscow), 18-19 July 1967.

(12.) Francis Fukuyama, The Soviet Union and Iraq Since 1968 (Santa Monica: Rand Corporation, 1980), p. 46.

(13.) A. Agarkov, "Rossiisko-Irackiie otnosheniia no novom etapie razvitiia sotrudnichestva: problemy i perpektivy", Vostok i Rossiia no rubieze XXI veka (Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moskva, 1998), p. 214. According to the always well informed Middle Eastern French expert, Eric Ruleau, Saddam Hussein was the real architect of the treaty (Le Monde, 14 April 1972).

(14.) TASS (in English), 9 April 1972.

(18.) Radio Baghdad, 8 January 1980 (FBIS, 8 January 1980).

(20.) Mezhdunarodnaia zhizn, No. 3, 1987, P. 83.

(22.) A. Vassiliev, Rossiia no Blizhnem i Srednem Vostoke at Messianstva k pragmatizmu (Moskva: Nauka, 1993), p. 335.

(33.) On 2 August 1990 there were exactly 7,791 Soviet citizens there. A. Vassiliev, p. 363.

(34.) V. Z. Sharipov, Persiskii Zaliv: Neft - politika i voina (Moskova: Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2000), P. 107.

(37.) Izvestia, 10 January 1996, p. 3.

(38.) Pravda (Moscow, 3 August 1990).

(39.) That was indicated soon afterwards by a prominent Russian scholar who noted that: "We lost the confidence of the Arab countries when we trampled upon the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Iraq." (A. M. Khazanov, ed., Posledstvia voiny v Persiskom zaliv'e i situatsia v regione (Moscow: Prometei, 1993), p. 9.

(42.) Izvestia (Moscow), 4 August 1990.

(43.) Yelena S. Melkumyan, "Soviet Policy and the Gulf Crisis", Ibrahim Ibrahim, ed., The Gulf Crisis: Background and Consequences. (Washington, D.C.: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 1992), p. 84.

(46.) Saraj Graham-Brown, Sanctioning Saddam: The Politics of Intervention in Iraq. (London, New York: I. B. Tauris Publishers, 1999), P. 10.

(47.) A. M. Vassiliev, "Budushtieie Rossiiskoj Politiki na Blizhnem Vostoke", Vestnik Rossiyskoj Akademii Nauk, 1998, vol. 68, No. 6, p. 494.

(48.) Galia Golan, "Gorbachev's Difficult Time in the Gulf,", Political Science Quarterly, vol. 107, No. 2 (1992), pp. 216-217.

(49.) A. M. Vassiliev, Rossiia na Blizhnem i Srednein Vostake, p. 358.

(52.) International Herald Tribune, 28 January 1991.

(60.) However, there is also the opinion that supporting Primakov's mission, Gorbachev only wanted to "please his domestic opponents in the hope of ultimately resuming his own policies." (Golan, p. 219). Shevardnadze was definitely against Primakov's mission and any efforts towards Soviet mediation and a more independent stand in the conflict (Vasiliev, p. 358). See also Primakov, Gody v Bolshoi Politike (Moskwa: Sovershenno Sekretno, 1999), pp. 309-310.

(63.) Izvestia (Moscow), 15 November 1991.

(64.) For a detailed analysis of the unprecedented Soviet-Russian collapse, see V. Pogodin, Rossiya i SSZA na poroge XXI veka ("Russia and the U.S.A. at the Threshold of the XXI century"), Svobodnaya Mysl., April 1997, pp. 30-34.

(65.) Russell E. Travers, "A New Millenium and a Strategic Breathing Space," Washington Quarterly, vol. 20, No. 2 (Spring 1997), pp. 103-104.

(66.) Middle East International, 9 October 1992, p. 8.

(67.) Rossiia - SNG - Asia. Problemy i Perspectivy sotrudnichestva (Moscow: Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, 1993), p. 6.

(68.) Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia na Blizhnem i Srednem Vostoke u Politika Rossii (Moscow: Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2000), p. 41.

(69.) Abdalla Abdalla Omar, SSZA, Islamskij Vostok i Rossiia (Moscow: Russian National Fund, 1995), p. 76.

(72.) Abdalla Abdalla Omar, p. 77.

(73.) Izvestia, 10 January 1996, p. 3.

(74.) Middle East International, 9 July 1993, p. 5.

(78.) Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia na Blizhnem i Srednim Vostoke, p. 29. Also personal interview with A. M. Vassiliev, a noted Russian Middle Eastern scholar in Moscow, on 4 January 2000.

(79.) Abdalla Abdalla Omar, p. 78.

(81.) Izvestia, 8 December 1994.

(82.) S. Lavrov, "Pora li oslabliat' sanktsii protiv Iraka?" Moskovkiye Novosti, No. 30, 24-30 June 1994.

(85.) Izvestia, 17 October 1995. For comments about Kozyrev's political fickleness, see also Izvestia, 10 January 1996, p. 3.

(86.) Abdalla Abdalla Omar, p. 78.

(88.) Diplomaticheskii Vestnik (Moscow), September 1995, p. 21.

(89.) Gawdat Bahgat, "The Iraqi Crisis in the New Millennium: The Prospects," Asian Affairs, vol. XXXI, part 2, June 2000, p. 15.

(90.) Diplomaticheskii Vestnik (Moscow), September 1995, p. 21.

(91.) Mezhdunarodnye Otnosheniia na Blizhnem i Srednim Vostoke, p. 30 and personal interview with A. M. Vassiliev, 4 January 2001.

(94.) According to some American sources, the Russian oil company, Zarubezhneft has already started up as the first foreign company since the Second Gulf War, to drill oil wells in the Kirkuk field in northern Iraq (Leon Barkho, "Russian firm drilling for Iraq Oil," Associated Press, 2 December 1999. On line at: www. Washington post.com/wp-srv/openline.

(95.) Bahgat, p. 150. See also Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press, vol. XLVI, No. 10 (1994), p. 28 and No. 28 (1994), p. 24.

(97.) ITAR-TASS, 1994, 21 October, issue 165, s. 1-8 (in Russian).

(99.) Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press, vol. XLVII, No. 23, p. 26 (1995).

(100.) Vassiliev, Budushtieie Rossiiskoi Politiki na Blishnem Vostoke, p. 495.

(102.) The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press, vol. XLVIII, No. 2, p. 14 (7 February 1996).

(103.) See for instance: V. Kolossov, "Geopolititsheskiie polozeniie Rossii," Polis, No. 3, 2000, pp. 55-60 and K. Brutens, "Vneshnaia politika Rossii Novyi etap", Svobodnaya Mysl, XXI, No. 11(1501)2000, p. 7.

(105.) Olga Aleksandrova, "The 'Third World' in Russian Foreign Policy," Aussenpolitik, III, 1996, p. 249.

(106.) Haaretz (31 October 1997), on line http://www3.haaretz./eng

(110.) Sevodnya (Moscow), 6 September 1996, p. 1.

(115.) Diplomaticheskii Vestnik, November 1997, p. 55.

(117.) Ibid. See also Sarah Graham-Brown, Sanctioning Saddam: The Politics of Intervention in Iraq (London and New York: Taurus, 1999), p. 86.

(118.) Diplomaticheskii Vestnik, November 1997, p. 56.

(120.) Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 21 November 1997.

(122.) Rossiiskaia Gazeta, 21 November 1997, p. 4.

(124.) See for instance Youssef M. Ibrahim, "Higher Hopes in Baghdad for Ending U.N. Embargo," New York Times, 18 October 1998, p. A4 Tim Weiner, "U.S. Spied on Iraq Under U.N. Cover, Officials Now Say," New York Times, 7 January 1999, p. Al. Also U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan, confirmed that he had obtained convincing evidence that the UNSCOM inspectors helped collect eavesdropping intelligence for the U.S. government (Washington Post, 6 January 1999, p. Al).

(125.) New York Times, 18 October 1998, p. A4.

(126.) Rzeczypospolita (Warsaw), 13 February 1998, p. 4.

(127.) See for instance K. Eggert (Izvestia, 4 February 1998). For the predominant opinion among the political class and public opinion at large, see Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 5 February 1998.

(128.) Pravda, 3 February 1998.

(129.) Nezavisimaja Gazeta, 5 February 1998.

(131.) RFE/RL, 13 February, p. I, 1998.

(133.) Guardian International, 23 February 1998.

(134.) Diplomaticheskii Vestnik, April 1998, pp. 49-50.

(138.) The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press, vol. 50, No. 51 (20 January 1999), p. 1.

(139.) Diplomaticheskii Vestnik, January 1999, p. 7.

(140.) Kommersant, 18 December 1998, p. 1. See also Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 18 December 1998.

(141.) Kommersant, 18 December 1998, p.2.

(142.) Diplomaticheskiji Vestnik, January 1999, p. 24.

(147.) Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 18 December 1998.

(148.) RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 2, No. 243, P. I(18 December 1998).

(149.) Sevodnya (Moscow), 11 December 1996, p. 3.

(151.) For an example of the political support of the Russian oil companies, see Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 18 October 1996, pp. 1-2.

(152.) Ibid. See also Sevodnya (Moscow), 11 December 1996, p. 3.

(153.) A private interview with a prominent Russian Middle Eastern expert, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Prof. A. M. Vassiliev in Moscow on 4 January 2001.

(155.) Mezhdunaradniye Otnosheniia no Blizhnem i Srednem Vostake, p. 41.

(156.) Sevodnya, 11 December 1996, p. 3.

(157.) Mezhdunaradniye Otnosheniia no Blizhnem i Srednem Vostake, p. 41.

(158.) Diplomaticheskii Vestnik, January 1999, p. 30.

(159.) During the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz's visit to Moscow on 18 November 1997, the Russian spokesman Tarasov stated: "Russia's position remains unchanged . that the Iraqi authorities must annul their illegal steps to impose conditions on UNSCOM. After that, and only after that, should other issues be discussed." (Christian Science Monitor, 21 November 1997, p. 18).

(160.) RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 2, No. 244, p. 1(21 December 1998).

(161.) Middle East International, 25 December 1998, P. 10.

(162.) Nezevisimaia Gazeta, 18 December 1998.

(163.) Diplomaticheskii Vestnik, July 1999, p. 50.

(165.) Interview with A. M. Vassiliev on 4 January 2001.

(166.) Diplomaticheskiji Vestnik, July 1999, p. 50.

(167.) Interview with A. M. Vassiliev on 4 January 2001.

(168.) Ibid. See also C. Lynch and John Lancaster, "U.N. votes to renew Iraq inspections," Washington Post, 17 December 1999, p. Al and R. Khalaf, "U.N. adopts new resolution on Iraq," Financial Times (London), 18 December 1999.

(171.) Diplomaticheskii Vestnik, October 1999, p. 57.

(173.) Mezhdunarodnye otnoshenia no Blizhnem i Srednem Vostoke, pp. 40-41.

(174.) Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 18 March 2001.

(175.) A. Malygin, "Novaia Situatsia no Blizhnem i Srednem Vostoke," Mezhdunarodnaia zhizn, No. 10, 2000, p. 85.

(177.) Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 24 November 2000, pp. 1-2.

(179.) Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 8 December 2000, p. 6.

(180.) Ibid. Another outcome of that policy is a planned north-south corridor, which will link Russia with India via Iran, cutting in half the time for land transportation between the two countries (RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 5, No. 11, part 1, 17 January2001).

(181.) Vitali Naoumkine, "Le Russie et le Proche Orient," Revue Internationale et Strategique, 2000, No. 38, p. 203.

(183.) As a Lebanese scholar indicates: "There is absolutely no evidence of defiance in the articulation of Russia's disagreements with the U.S. on the issue of Iraqi sanctions. Russia just disagrees with Washington on Iraq, and it wants the world to know that it does." (Hilal Khashan, "Russia's Middle Eastern Policy," International Studies (New Delhi) 36, 1 (1999) p. 27.

(184.) Agence France Press, 26 July 2000.

(185.) Diplomaticheskii Vestnik, July 2000, p. 59.

(188.) Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 30 November 2000, p. 6.

(189.) New York Times, 13 January 2001, p. A8.

(190.) RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 5, No. 34, p. I (19 February 2001).

(191.) RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 5, No. 36, p. 1 (21 February 2001).

(192.) RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 5, No. 39, p. I (26 February 2001).

(193.) RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 5, No. 35, p. I (20 February 2001).

(194.) RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 5, No. 39, p. 1 (26 February 2001).

(195.) RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 5, No. 35, p. 1 (20 February 2001).

(196.) RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 5, No. 38, p. I (23 February 2001).

(197.) RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 5, No. 39, p. I (26 February 2001).

(198.) For instance on 29 January 2001, two Russian delegations, one led by the Minister of Energy A. Gavrin and the other by the President of Kolmykia, Kirsan Ilymzhinov, left for Baghdad (RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 5., No. 20, p. I (30 January 2001). Between 16-18 March an official visit was scheduled to take place by the Chairman of the Duma, G. Seleznev (http://www.mid.ru.) 13 March 2001).

(199.) RFE/RL, vol. 5, No. 47, p. I, 8 March 2001.

(200.) An interview with A. M. Vassiliev, 4 January 2001.

(201.) For example, the head of the Moscow-based Arabists Association, Vadim Semensov, who argues that the "sanctions must remain in place until Saddam Hussein caves in" and that "Russia's betting on Iraq has been a mistake." (ITAR-TASS News Agency, 11 July 2000). Quite recently, even Sergei Karaganov, influential president of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy in Moscow, has blamed Putin's administration for: "the stepped up dialogue with Iraq." (Sevodnya, 20 January 2001, p. 4).

(202.) E. Satanovskii, "Rossiiskaia politika v otnoshenii Irana i Blizhnego Vostoka," Blizhnii Vostok i Soviemennost, issue 6, 1999, p. 181.

(203.) Ibid. See also E. Primakov, Gody v Bolshoi Politike (Moskwa: Sovershenno Sekretno, 1999), pp. 306-307.

(204.) Sadashi Fukuda, ed., Politics, Economy and Sanctions in the Persian Gulf States in a Changing Environment (Japan: Institute of Developing Economies, 2001), p. 29.


What Russians believe their country is known for

But if you ask Russians themselves what their country is famous for, the answers will be quite different. Here are the top 10 things that locals are proud of.

1. Russia was the first to send a man into the outer space.

Yuri Gagarin was a good looking guy who was the first human to loop around the Earth in a spaceship on 12 April 1961. Technically, it was still the USSR at the time. The space exploration program was the collective effort of its 15 republics and not only Russia. It was also the Soviet Union that launched the very first satellite Sputnik 1 on 4 October 1957. But these last century achievements are the major facts that the modern generation of Russian citizens are tremendously proud of.

By the way, the main Soviet cosmodrome was in Kazakhstan (Baikonur). This is where the first space flight with Gagarin took off.

Russians are proud that their country was the first to send a man to the outer space.

2. Russia won the World War II and saved the humanity from fascist Germany.

This fact probably is surprising for you. You may not even be aware that Soviet Union was a part of the coalition (together with the United Kingdom and the USA) that fought against the Nazis. But every small kid in Russia knows the history of how the USSR was heroically fighting fascists since 1941 till 1945, having lost 40 million people in the course. (For comparison, Germany lost 10 million.) Russians believe that it is their giant efforts in 1941-43 that bled Hitler’s aggression and paved the way for allies to win in 1945.

The efforts of the USA and UK in defeating Hitler are considered by Russian historians miniscule in comparison with what the Soviet Union endured. Yes, Russia’s citizens are aware that Churchill and Roosevelt met with Stalin in Teheran in November 1943 to discuss opening of the second front. But the USSR was fighting ground battles on its territory since June 1941 while the USA and UK never had any occupants on their land. Americans and Britons only sent troops to Europe for ground operations in July 1944, and Berlin fell in May 1945—less than a year later. Soviets were struggling against Nazis alone for 3 years before the second front came in play. Hitler’s army approached Moscow but was pushed back all the way to the German territory with heroic efforts by USSR troops. You may see some logic in why Russians feel strongly about their country’s prevalent role in defeating Hitler.

Oddly enough, none of the other republics that were part of the Soviet Union claim victory over Nazis, although all of them had as much input and suffered just as greatly as Russia did. But in these former Soviet Union republics it’s more about remembering fallen soldiers rather than fanfares of “victors”. For Russians USSR’s prevailing over fascist Germany 70 years ago is a top fact to boast about.

By the way, Stalin himself was Georgian and not Russian. Joseph Stalin was born 21 December 1879 in Gori, Georgia (country Georgia on the intersection of Europe and Asia on the Black Sea, not an American state). All his life he spoke Russian with а huge accent.

Every year Russians celebrate Victory Day on 9 May, commemorating capitulation of fascist Germany in the World War II. Kids give flowers to war veterans on this day.

3. It is the largest country in the world.

Russia covers 1/8 of the planet’s land area. Its area of 17 million square km (or 6.5 million square miles) is nearly double the size of the second largest country, Canada. The USA is in the third place. The territory of Russia lies both in Europe and Asia, making it transcontinental. With such a giant land area, Russia has diverse climate zones from subtropics to permanent frosting.

The country, however, is not known for its beautiful landscapes or magnificent cities. Which is a pity, as there is really a lot to explore and look at.

Russia covers roughly 1/8 of planet’s land area. It is the largest country on Earth. (Click to enlarge.)

4. Russians are proud of their country being revered in the world politics.

Yes, citizens of the world’s largest country are proud of their heritage, history, and global influence on the political scene. Like people of any nation Russians may complain about the way their state administration operates but they will still defend it furiously if you were to talk about it unfavourably. Today’s young generation is highly patriotic.

The territory of the country lies both in Europe and Asia, making it transcontinental.

5. It has the most beautiful women.

This is not even questioned locally but presumed to be the common knowledge, like the force of gravity. Why else all these foreign men would be seeking Russian wives?

The postulate that their country has the most beautiful women is accepted by locals as a given.

6. Russian language is one of the most difficult to learn.

You’d think it could be seen as a downside but no, it’s a matter of national pride. Since the language is so hard to learn, it’s more unique to speak Russian. It’s a sign of intelligence in a way to be able to manage all the intricacies of the local dialect.

7. Russians have the kindest and deepest souls.

Think of it as “the mysterious Russian soul.” In fact, in Russia acting irrationally based on one’s feelings rather than trying to manage logical outcomes is seen as a virtue. Being cold-hearted about reaching your goals, on the other hand, is the sign of not having a kind and deep soul. So, natives are used to following their emotional attachments rather than a rational plan to move forward. That’s why leaving their country for love is not seen as anything special. If you cannot find love at home, quite naturally, you’d go anywhere to find your One-and-only.

8. Strong family values that are more important than anything else.

Foreigners notice it immediately when visiting Russia, how family oriented are women and girls. For females, their husband and kids are the centre of the Universe. For unmarried women finding a partner and “creating a family” is their #1 priority in life. Guys also feel highly protective of their girlfriends and wives. Men are happy to be family providers and protectors. Unfortunately, because there are only 86 men for 100 women in Russia, finding a partner for life becomes a quandary for women.

For females, their husband and kids are the centre of the Universe.

9. Russia is the country with the most readers.

While the whole world watches TV and online videos, in Russia women and men still read a lot. Not only that, they comment a lot on the subjects they feel passionate about. In total, posts on the Russian blog of Elenasmodels.com attracted 10 times more comments than on its English version. But even on English pages, plenty of comments are from Russian readers.

Russians are proud of their broad spectrum education and encyclopaedic knowledge. They also believe they are the highest educated nation in the world. In 2012 OECD gave the first rating by the number of people with degrees to Russia (54%) after Canada (51%) and Israel (46%). The USA was in the fourth position with 42%.

10. The coldest place on Earth is in Siberia.

Again, you’d think that having such a harsh climate would not be a matter of a national pride—but it is. While residents of Australia, California, or Florida cannot even imagine living for half a year in subzero temperatures, Russians manage to enjoy life in places where getting outside in winter is an everyday challenge. Locals are proud of being tough. They even swim in the icy water in winter (they have to first make a hole in the thick ice to jump in a lake), which is not only for some crazy fitness fanatics but plenty of people might have done it once or twice just for fun.

Towns of Verkhoyansk and Oymyakon in Yakutia, Siberia, are competing for the title of the coldest inhabited place on Earth. It is so cold there in winter that boiling water freezes in the air if thrown from a kettle. The record low temperature in winter is -68˚C or -90˚F. In summer, however, it’s very hot (+37˚C/+99˚F). Russians are proud to be able to survive conditions that most foreigners consider unliveable.

Towns of Verkhoyansk and Oymyakon in Yakutia, Siberia, are competing for the title of the coldest inhabited place on Earth. (Click to enlarge.)


From 6–12 September 1978, the WHO, together with the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), convened the momentous International Conference on Primary Health Care in Alma-Ata, capital of the then-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. This unprecedented gathering of 3000 health delegates, including government officials from 134 countries and representatives of 67 non-governmental organisations, signalled a rupture with WHO’s long-standing technically oriented, top-down disease eradication approach.

The purpose of this meeting was to ‘exchange experiences’ regarding PHC implementation ‘within the framework of comprehensive national health systems and overall development’ and to ‘further promote’ PHC’s uptake by governments and international agencies. i At the core of this approach was the idea of universal accessibility, equity, integration of prevention and treatment, government responsibility for the health of populations and community participation. These ideas were further articulated in a joint report by the directors of WHO and Unicef, together with background reports from the six regional offices of WHO presented at the conference.

The meeting concluded with the adoption of a set of 22 recommendations and accompanying Declaration of Alma-Ata calling for ‘health for all the people of the world by the year 2000’. These documents crystallised principles of health as ‘a fundamental human right’ and ‘important worldwide social goal’, defining PHC as ‘essential health care based on practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community through their full participation and at a cost that the community and country can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination’. Another aspect of the event’s lore was the declaration’s censure of the ‘gross inequality’ in health status between and within countries—deriving from an unjust global order—as ‘politically, socially, and economically unacceptable’. i

The conference and declaration generated enormous visibility for a PHC approach and its centrality to any healthcare system. The event gave impetus to efforts to reshape health policy in member countries and reorient WHO’s own agenda. In 1979, the World Health Assembly (WHA), WHO’s governing body, endorsed the declaration, and 2 years later, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly passed a special resolution exhorting all member countries to implement the Global Strategy for Health for All by the Year 2000 under WHO’s coordination.1

Despite falling short of these aspirations, the Alma-Ata meeting and PHC declaration have become a perennial rallying cry in the international/global health community. ii Indeed, unlike most such conferences, which 40 years later might have been long forgotten except by lead protagonists, Alma-Ata’s symbolic importance endures. In the context of repeated economic and political crises across the world as well as multiple challenges to WHO’s leadership, invoking—and rescuing the ideals embodied in—the Alma-Ata declaration still offers both inspiration and a putative set of guiding norms towards a more socially just approach to health and healthcare.

This durability of Alma-Ata’s vision points to the importance of remembering what was said at the meeting and how and why the events and declaration unfolded as they did. Yet, remarkably, while available historical accounts note (usually in passing) that the Alma-Ata conference was a Cold War story and—according to some authors’ assertions—represented a Soviet victory, a crucial side of that story has yet to be told: that of the Soviet Union.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was not merely a backdrop to the meeting’s deliberations: Soviet officials had prodded WHO into holding a conference and ultimately hosted and presided over it. During the weekend that fell in the middle of the conference, the Soviet hosts invited attendees to visit healthcare facilities in the Alma-Ata region, as well as in neighbouring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, to witness the advances in these previously ‘underdeveloped’ regions, showcasing the USSR’s own socialist healthcare system as a PHC success as understood according to Soviet criteria.

To redress the omissions and assumptions of prior accounts, this article examines the Alma-Ata conference in the context of Soviet political and health developments, drawing from WHO materials and from Soviet archival and published sources, supplemented by interviews with several key protagonists. We begin by outlining the USSR’s complicated relationship to WHO and the international health sphere from the late 1940s to the 1960s. Next, we trace the genesis of the proposal for—and realisation and repercussions of—the PHC meeting, framed by Soviet, Kazakh, WHO and Cold War politics. Finally, we explore misjudgements and competing meanings of PHC from both Soviet and WHO perspectives, in particular focusing on the role of physicians, community participation and socialist approaches to PHC. While certainly a Cold War story, the making of the Alma-Ata conference—like the story of the Cold War writ large—was not a simple tale of victors and victims, global superpowers and local minor players but reflected a complex interplay of optimistic scientific cooperation, misunderstandings, missed and seized opportunities and distinct regional, national and international agencies and audiences.

A socialist alternative? The early Cold War years and the USSR’s rupture with WHO

To understand the USSR’s international health stance in the early Cold War, it is essential to briefly sketch out domestic healthcare developments following the 1917 Russian Revolution. From its very establishment in July 1918, the Soviet Ministry of Health Protection (Narkomzdrav) had primary purview over preventive and curative medical services via polyclinics, dispensaries and secondary and tertiary care units. iii Together, medical care, research, production of pharmaceuticals and vaccines, medical devices and public health activities were all integrated into a unified, centrally administered whole, implemented via a network of local administrative units. Social protection measures—including those around housing, pensions, work compensation, paid maternity leave, nutrition, employment conditions and other elements of social welfare—were addressed and overseen by a range of state agencies in consultation with Narkomzdrav. This centralised, hierarchical health protection system displaced the local level healthcare (zemstvo) system, which had been developing in Imperial Russia since the 1860s.2 3

As early as the 1920s, the Soviet regime began to employ health as a tool of diplomacy, with the dual aim of learning from other countries and showcasing domestic developments under Narkomzdrav.4 Within two decades, the achievements of the Soviet system became particularly visible during and in the aftermath of World War II (WWII) with the successful control of infectious diseases. Even without antibiotics and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), Soviet WWII-era disease control was in stark contrast with the aftermath of World War I. Moreover, medical cooperation was a high point of the Allied war effort, giving rise to expectations for postwar health cooperation.

Indeed, Soviet officials, like many Western counterparts, believed that health cooperation offered a neutral realm for addressing common problems and charting progress. However, by WHO’s 1946 founding conference in New York City, the wartime alliance to defeat the Nazis had ruptured, and the Cold War was underway. Still, into 1948, when WHO was officially inaugurated, both Americans and Soviets sought to ensure that the other would participate. As a Rockefeller Foundation executive fretted in 1947, ‘If … Russia will not join … it will not be a World Health Organization’. iv As it turned out, it was the Americans who stalled, not the Soviets. When the USA belatedly agreed to join in July 1948 (after passage of a joint Congressional resolution stipulating the possibility of a unilateral US withdrawal), it was the USSR delegate who formally proposed WHO’s acceptance of US membership. v

Given the sacrifices of the Soviet people during WWII (20 million military and civilian casualties), USSR health authorities expected WHO to offer needed resources for rebuilding damaged infrastructure. However, it was rapidly apparent that WHO would not help the Soviet bloc for example, it failed to intervene in response to US efforts to block the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration’s postwar cooperation in establishing the first penicillin factories in Poland and Czechoslovakia.5

In early 1949, after the Berlin crisis confirmed the intractability of the Cold War standoff, the Soviets pulled out of WHO. Soviet Health Minister Nikolai Vinogradov informed WHO’s first director-general, Canadian psychiatrist Brock Chisholm, that the Ministry was ‘dissatisfied with [WHO’s] activities’ and that ‘maintenance of the Organization’s swollen administrative machinery involves disproportionately heavy expenses for Member States.’ Therefore, the USSR ‘no longer considers itself a member…’ vi Although WHO’s Executive Board and various countries, led by Canada, implored the Soviets to reconsider, they remained firm soon, other Eastern European countries severed their relations to WHO. To be sure, Soviet bloc countries did not exit WHO following a Soviet master plan. Several delegations had grown dissatisfied with WHO’s insufficient response to addressing medical shortages in their countries and its one-size-fits-all approach.6 The concerns expressed by Soviet authorities—that country dues far exceeded cooperative assistance, that WHO’s technical missions were of little use, and that WHO headquarters ‘discriminated against Soviet experts in hiring practices’—were also shared by many ‘developing countries’. Unlike the Soviet bloc, however, they were not in a position to quit WHO. vii

During the almost decade-long period when the USSR, plus Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Mongolia, Bulgaria and Romania were ‘inactive’ in WHO, the socialist bloc forged its own system of health cooperation,7–9 with the Soviets drawing from their model to help their allies rebuild their health services.10 Additionally, as early as 1951, the Soviet Union, German Democratic Republic (GDR), Romania and other Eastern European countries began to engage in ‘proletarian’ health solidarity in North Korea and Vietnam,11 12 building on the 1930s medical cooperation extended by the Soviets and Eastern European health leftists to fight Franco’s fascists in Spain and the Japanese occupation of China.

Starting in 1956, these cooperative arrangements became institutionalised through annual meetings of public health ministers of socialist countries. viii By the 1960s, questions of housing, sanitation, health infrastructure, pensions and social security had been addressed by most of the ‘socialist camp’. Accordingly, meeting agendas turned to issues of medical research and technical developments. Two main priorities emerged: integration and sharing of knowledge and practices across member countries, and country specialisation in particular areas of medical research and production. ix For example, Hungary, and later Poland, became centres of pharmaceutical research and manufacturing, GDR and Czechoslovakia focused on medical devices, and the USSR produced the bulk of vaccines and sera.

Bilateral cooperative health relations also extended beyond the socialist bloc. India’s health minister visited Moscow in 1953, and the first agreements on technical and economic assistance to India and Afghanistan were signed the following year. By 1960, the Soviet Union had similar agreements with 14 countries in Asia and Africa, by 1969 with 39, soon reaching some 70 Third World countries, including in Latin America.13–15 Activities encompassed construction of health facilities, medical equipment and drug distribution, health education, training and secondment of medical personnel. Unlike Western aid in this period, the USSR sought, where possible, to provide cooperation aimed at building national health systems along the Soviet model of free, universal, public systems organised around a system of polyclinics and secondary and tertiary care facilities.13

Complementing overseas cooperation, the USSR became a hub for professional training.16 Starting in the 1960s, student fellowships, such as those held at the famed Patrice Lumumba Moscow Peoples’ Friendship University (so named shortly after the 1961 assassination of the Congolese liberation leader), trained tens of thousands of doctors, engineers, social scientists, agriculturalists and other professionals from across Asia, Africa and Latin America (with roughly one-third from each region), who served as important interlocutors encouraging support for socialism (if not necessarily the Soviet variant) to thrive in distinct milieus.17–20

The Soviet Union also developed bilateral relations with capitalist countries. In 1969, a cooperative public health agreement involving exchanges of personnel, information and technology was signed with France, in 1970 with Italy, in 1972 with the USA21 and in 1975 with the UK. The Soviet leadership considered these agreements of utmost importance for they allowed Soviet researchers access to the latest Western medical technologies, such as the artificial heart. x However, this was a two-way street: Western countries were also interested in Soviet technologies, particularly in areas such as space medicine, cancer therapeutics and cardiac surgical techniques. xi

In sum, WHO, like its interwar predecessor, the League of Nations Health Organisation, was never central to Soviet international health efforts the Soviets distrusted the intentions of these organisations and believed they did not serve the USSR’s national interests. Despite such suspicions—and the decision to direct the bulk of their health cooperation efforts elsewhere—the Soviets did recognise the potential utility of participating in WHO.

Back to the WHO: the making of a PHC conference

In 1956, the Soviet Union ‘re-activated’ its WHO membership after a Soviet UN delegate announced that WHO was doing ‘constructive work’. xii Among the rejoined USSR’s first actions was to propose, at the 11th WHA in 1958, that WHO sponsor a global campaign against smallpox. Such an effort was consistent with prior WHO efforts against yaws, tuberculosis and, most prominently, malaria through a global eradication programme launched in 1955.22 Not only did Soviet experts regard smallpox’s biological and social particularities as ideally suited to a global campaign, but they also considered themselves disease control trailblazers, with expertise in plague, malaria and smallpox control, as well as mass production of vaccines 14 after all, such preventive armamentaria were the foundation of the USSR’s public health system. Soviet interest was also domestic: although the USSR had eliminated smallpox in the 1930s, it faced a reintroduction threat via bordering Asian countries and the thousands of Third World students it welcomed each year. Additionally, the Soviets recognised the prospects of their concrete contribution in terms of vaccine production, serving as a counterweight to the US’s dominance of DDT production for the malaria campaign.23 Although the smallpox resolution passed, WHO’s Secretariat paid little attention to its implementation for almost a decade. xiii Meanwhile, the Soviets bypassed (but informed) WHO to offer smallpox vaccine and medical experts to India, Pakistan and other countries. xiv

This expression of support for Third World countries took on a more political tone at the 1961 WHA when the Soviet Union, together with Poland and Cuba, proposed a Declaration Concerning the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and the Tasks of the World Health Organization. Debate over this call for WHO to ‘help in eliminating the consequences of colonialism in the field of health’ was vitriolic, with accusations by the UK delegate, for example, that the USSR was making ‘false assumptions’ about ‘the factors responsible for’ health problems in colonies and ‘was distorting the medical and historical facts’ the resolution was shelved despite wide support from African and socialist countries.24

Subsequently, the Soviets homed in on WHO’s malaria campaign, voicing concern about its ‘insufficient methodological and organizational grounds’, compared with the USSR’s own experience in eliminating the disease: even in a temperate climate, eradication required ‘the creation of a vast network of anti-malaria stations, training of special cadres, medical treatment of all the infected, along with a number of other medical and state measures’ (p. 196).14 xv This critique opened years of confrontation between Soviet and Western delegates regarding WHO’s budget, agenda-setting, leadership and modus operandi.

By this time a new Soviet delegate was posted to WHO, Dr Dmitry Venediktov (1969–1980). Having worked in the USA as the medical advisor to the Soviet delegation to the UN,21 Venediktov was a protégé and favourite student of Boris Petrovskii, the USSR’s minister of public health (1965–1980) as well as its most esteemed cardiac surgeon and the personal physician of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. This relationship, in turn, led to Venediktov’s appointment as deputy-minister in charge of international affairs and head of the Soviet delegation to WHO.

Venediktov quickly identified similar problems to those that had provoked the USSR’s withdrawal from WHO 20 years earlier: WHO’s sizeable spending on ‘technical assistance’ mostly went to ‘experts and consultants from capitalist countries’, making ‘many developing countries such as India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Congo … wary of inviting these highly paid “international bureaucrats” and “temporary” experts’ (p. 201).14

These criticisms were consistent with concerns of the non-aligned movement that had emerged out of the 1955 Bandung (Indonesia) Conference, which gathered leaders from newly decolonised nations of Africa and Asia seeking to challenge neocolonialism and replace it with cooperation ‘on the basis of mutual interest and respect for national sovereignty’. xvi The Group of 77 (non-aligned countries), formed in 1964, articulated similar concerns at the UN.25 26 In the 1970s, non-aligned countries called for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) to ensure trade equity and justice for developing countries, a call also invoked in the Alma-Ata declaration.27

By 1970, echoing such critiques, the Soviet delegation, supported by other socialist country representatives, demanded that WHO focus more on ‘actual needs and health problems of all member-countries and give them not words, but effective methodological and technical assistance’. The Soviets proposed that ‘the main functions and tasks of the organization be defined more precisely’ and that ‘the most important and effective principles of building national public health services and systems appropriate to all countries be formulated’ (p. 201).14 For the USSR and other socialist countries, this recommendation reflected the approach they had long been implementing domestically and had also been employing in bilateral cooperation for almost two decades and in an ongoing fashion. Some Western observers held that in highlighting these accomplishments, the Soviet delegation was aiming to maximise ‘political advantage’ (p. 712).28

The Soviet proposal was accepted by the 23rd WHA in 1970, resulting in adoption of two resolutions: 23.59 and 23.61. Resolution 23.59 noted ‘important functions of the Organization’ that should be considered in WHO’s forthcoming fifth general programme of work for the 1973–1977 period, including ‘identification of the most rational and effective ways of helping Member States to develop their own health systems’. Meanwhile, 23.61 outlined ‘the most effective principles for the establishment and development of national health systems’.29 As Socrates Litsios has discussed, intense debate around the wording of Resolution 23.61, especially regarding gratis health services and the role of state provision, ensued. The US delegation pushed for language specifying that care be provided ‘without financial or other impediments’ rather than ‘free’. The US likewise insisted that ‘a nation-wide system of health services’ be recommended instead of ‘a system of national health services based on a single national plan’ (p. 712).28

With this line drawn in the sand, a number of key events unfolded. In 1972, the Unicef/WHO Joint Committee on Health Policy undertook a study on the organisation and provision of basic health services, and tropical community health specialist Kenneth Newell, of New Zealand, became head of WHO’s Division of Strengthening of Health Services. The following year, long-time WHO Director-General Marcolino Candau, a Brazilian physician who had worked with the Rockefeller Foundation earlier in his career, was succeeded by his deputy, Halfdan Mahler, a Danish tuberculosis specialist with an almost evangelical commitment to health justice.

While Mahler was less beholden to the USA and other Western powers than his predecessor, his stance against overly medicalised healthcare systems made him wary of what he perceived as the Soviet Union’s medicalised approach to healthcare. Mahler’s own vision of PHC—and of how to steer WHO away from technically based disease campaigns—were key to how Health for All would play out. To wrest control of public health from the medical profession and accompanying technical, professional, industry and paternalistic imperatives, Mahler stressed bottom-up approaches centred on community participation, integrated prevention, cure and health promotion, collaboration across different sectors, national self-reliance (rather than dependence on Western aid) and self-determination in agenda-setting—all consistent with NIEO principles.30 31 Despite Mahler’s implicit and explicit critiques of the Soviet healthcare system, it actually featured most of his desired elements except for bottom-up agenda setting and approaches.

Amid these developments, at the 1974 WHA, Venediktov proposed that WHO sponsor a special conference on ‘exchange of experiences as regards the development of national health services’ (p. 715).28 According to Dr Oleg Shchepin, a member of the Soviet delegation, ‘to our great surprise, at the next several key meetings of the organization, nobody supported that idea, that is, nobody expressed the desire to host such a conference’. xvii At the January 1975 Executive Board meeting, a repeat proposal by Venediktov to hold an ‘international conference on the same scale as the World Population Conference’ (most recently held in Bucharest in 1974) was rejected. Instead Newell proposed a smaller meeting, not international but nonetheless ‘representative’. For his part, Mahler expressed reluctance to ‘embark upon a new and challenging enterprise’, particularly ‘[a]fter so many failures in the past’, unless assured of ‘full moral backing’ from WHA and the Executive Board. xviii In November 1975, Mahler again questioned ‘whether it is opportune to hold a large international meeting or conference on the subject at the present time’, preferring instead to study the subject in greater depth and hold regional meetings. xix

Also in 1975, Unicef and WHO issued a joint report, Alternative Approaches to Meeting Basic Health Needs in Developing Countries, which contested the dominant vertical disease campaign approach and challenged the appropriateness of Western medical systems for developing countries. Instead, it pointed to the centrality of improving social conditions, presenting examples of successful PHC experiences in China, Cuba, India, Tanzania and Yugoslavia, among others. The same year, Newell’s influential edited volume, Health by the People, was issued, proffering further and more detailed models of effective PHC among some of the ‘poorest rural populations’ in the ‘developing world’ (p. 191).32 33 Although Soviet influence was mentioned in chapters about China, Cuba and Venezuela, no ‘underdeveloped’ Soviet Central Asian republics were included. Moreover, Newell only vaguely alluded to ‘overall political ideology’ as a crucial factor in enabling mobilisation of ‘national will’ (p. 199).33

Venediktov was a sometime nemesis to Newell even as both believed in a ‘systems approach’ to health services. As Venediktov recalled, ‘We knew that he was trying to find an alternative to socialism (as a form of organizing PHC), and this we could not tolerate… but we tried to understand his position’. xx

Newell appeared to be stymying any possibility for the Soviet Union to host a conference, though in reality none of the early proposals entailed a Soviet invitation. In January 1975, for example, Venediktov had suggested that a meeting be held in Geneva or ‘where it was possible to observe various forms of organization of health services’. xxi He later recounted, ‘We had … no idea of having such a conference in the Soviet Union’. xx Indubitably, an invitation would have required prior approval by one of the highest-level Soviet governing bodies—the Communist Party’s Politburo or Secretariat. The Soviet delegate simply lacked the authority to make such an invitation without a special resolution by one of these agencies.

It was only after his second proposal was rejected—and in the absence of other invitations—that Venediktov secured his government’s approval, which Minister of Health Petrovskii managed to push through the Communist Party Secretariat. xx Thus, at WHO’s January 1976 Executive Board meeting, Venediktov transmitted ‘the official invitation of the Soviet government to hold the conference in the USSR, in any of its republics in 1977’, noting that the Soviet Union was ‘ready to take upon itself a part of expenses for the conference’. Venediktov indicated his country’s interest in a wide exchange of experiences, including those ‘accumulated during more than 50 years in the USSR and its union republics’. xxii As Venediktov relayed to Petrovskii, a sharp division of opinions ensued.

Backed by representatives of Western countries, including Australia, Canada, France and West Germany, ‘Dr. Newell doubted the expediency of holding the conference in the nearest future, referring to the lack of necessary experience’ in primary care. However, Third World Executive Board members, namely Somalia and Swaziland, two of the world’s poorest countries, supported holding a conference in a country with a modern public health system and a willingness to fund it. Newell then announced that the Egyptian Minister of Health had already invited the conference to his country which, according to Venediktov, ‘came as a total surprise to all those present. Behind the scenes, it became clear that neither WHO’s Secretariat nor the Arab country representatives knew anything about Egypt’s invitation’. xxii Were there an actual offer, Venediktov questioned that Egypt could take on even minimal expenses, implying that Newell had orchestrated an alternative to the Soviet invitation at the last minute. Meantime, China, referring to its experiment with barefoot doctors, ‘supported the necessity of exchange of experiences’ and that the conference should be convened in a developing country, such as Egypt. xxii In fact, in October 1975 Egypt had offered to host the meeting in Cairo only to withdraw the invitation shortly after the Executive Board meeting, xxiii perhaps due to diplomatic pressure or financial constraints. xxiv This left Mahler scrambling to find another venue, but country after country—from Belgium to Yemen, Rwanda, the UK, Kuwait, the Dominican Republic and so on—turned him down (Costa Rica assented but could not provide funding). xxv

In the end, the Soviet offer to host prevailed and China did not object. ‘Western countries’ only managed to postpone the conference until 1978 and ensure that it not take place in Moscow, according to Assistant Director General David Tejada-de-Rivero, a Peruvian physician.34

Back to the USSR: towards the Alma-Ata Conference

Newell’s last pitch and Executive Board manoeuvres notwithstanding, preparations were soon underway for a meeting in the USSR. WHO set up a steering committee on PHC without Soviet representation, though Venediktov was periodically invited to attend. In late May 1976, the WHA formally approved holding the conference in the USSR a few weeks later, Petrovskii informed the health ministers of the Soviet republics about this decision, indicating that Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, was the likely site for the conference. Completely rebuilt after its devastating 1966 earthquake, Tashkent in the mid-1970s was a recognised ‘window to the East’ and Central Asian hub, hosting numerous international gatherings.35 The city had the necessary facilities and infrastructure for a large international conference. It was the obvious choice. To Venediktov, too, it was clear that the conference needed to be held on the ‘periphery’ of the Soviet Union to display ‘health and development’ activities germane to the majority of WHO member states. xx

However, Turgel’dy Sharmanov, Kazakhstan’s ambitious minister of public health, wanted to hold the conference in his hometown—Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan’s capital. He secured support for this idea from his patron, Dimash Kunaev, the secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party and a member of the Politburo. During a September 1976 visit to Moscow, Tashkent and Alma-Ata by Tejada and other WHO officials, the choice of Alma-Ata was sealed and the September 1978 date was set. As long as the meeting was not held in Russia (especially Moscow or Leningrad), WHO authorities concurred. Soviet authorities, meanwhile, did not appear overly concerned with the decision over the locale.

According to Litsios (at the time a WHO PHC analyst), as late as January 1977, Tejada and Mahler still had qualms, hoping that budgetary uncertainties would lead the conference to be ‘voted down!’ (ie, reversed by WHO bodies) (p. 709).28 When this did not happen, and perhaps intending a delay or simply to sort out logistical matters, Mahler requested a formal letter of support from the USSR’s Ministry of Health. In late April 1977 (in time for the May WHA), Petrovskii sent him a long missive reiterating Soviet support for WHO, its promotion of PHC (especially in rural areas of low-income countries) and Health for All by the Year 2000. ‘Gratified’ at his country’s hosting of the conference and ‘deeply pleased’ about Unicef’s participation, he assured Mahler that the Soviet Union ‘wish[ed] to contribute in every way to the success of this conference on the broadest and most practical basis’. xxvi

Disarming Mahler’s anxieties, Petrovskii reminded him that Tejada had visited the USSR at Mahler’s own behest, settling on Alma-Ata as the most suitable location. Petrovskii reported on Tejada and Venediktov’s excellent headway in planning. Most importantly, Petrovskii promised the Soviet government’s ‘substantial contribution’: use and equipping of the V.I. Lenin Palace of Culture in Alma-Ata for conference sessions lodging for WHO and official member country delegates, technical staff and translators transport in Alma-Ata visas and discounts on international and domestic Aeroflot flights. He also expressed his government’s ‘readiness, although not directly envisaged in the preliminary conference plan, to give all interested participants an opportunity to study experiences’ in organisation of PHC in Kazakhstan as well as Uzbekistan and Kirghizia (present-day Kyrgyztan). In this sense, the Soviet Union was presenting itself—or at least its Central Asian republics—as a model of/for developing country achievement. xxvii

The planned site visits likely rankled Mahler, who considered the Soviet system ‘overmedicalised’ and centralised—hardly an exemplar of PHC given that it lacked a community participation dimension, in which Mahler held great stock (p. 718).28 Yet the Soviets were not negating the potential role of community participation, and Venediktov asserted that the USSR was not seeking to impose their model on the rest of the world. xx That said, Soviet health specialists held that the best health outcomes came when the entry point of people into the health system was through a properly trained doctor, nurse or feldsher (physician’s assistant, used as temporary personnel in the Soviet context). In the leadup to Alma-Ata, the Soviets offered, as part of their larger commitment to the education of ‘medical cadres’ from developing countries, 25 fellowships to train physicians ‘under the aegis of’ WHO, which in turn would inform national health departments about the availability of the fellowships and ensure their ‘effective utilisation’. xxviii

Mahler’s views on the medical profession as an obstacle to primary care undoubtedly exacerbated his concerns about holding the conference in the Soviet Union. However, he clearly misunderstood the role of doctors in the USSR, who neither constituted a profession nor controlled the healthcare system: as salaried state employees, they were champions of public health but lacked control over the health system’s orientation, which was a prerogative of the Communist Party apparatus. To be sure, all Soviet representatives to WHO came from the Ministry of Health (as was the case with most countries) and were doctors with interest and expertise in health services.14 Many, like Shchepin, had had firsthand international experience as practising physicians or government advisers in countries as varied as the USA, Cuba, India and Congo.

The clash of visions went even deeper. For the Soviets, demonstrating that their technological prowess operated on par with Western advances was a top priority, far more important than showing achievements in other aspects of social well-being (such as pensions, housing, sanitation, schools and maternal and child health protection). Moreover, intersectoral approaches—addressing the key social factors that shaped health in terms of social security, education, labour, industrial development and so on—were considered ‘resolved’ and not connected to health in operational terms. xxix

With these differences festering, from 1976 to 1978, WHO and Soviet authorities operated on parallel planes, although with frequent communication and WHO technical personnel returning to Alma-Ata in December 1977 and April 1978. Mahler himself visited the USSR in late 1976 (having previously visited in 1974). Preparation of the conference documentation remained firmly in the hands of WHO officials, with the conference steering committee predominantly composed of Western European and US staff members, with two from the Middle East, one Hungarian and one Russian—Igor Poustovoi, a health economist and planner based at WHO’s European office in Copenhagen who attended meetings intermittently.

Venediktov’s wish to be ‘kept fully informed’ of conference arrangements was agreed to, but his request that a Soviet national familiar with Kazakhstan be recruited as a liaison to WHO’s PHC unit was rebuffed (unless the Soviet government agreed to fund this post). xxx Only in early 1978 did WHO agree to a ‘Russian’ liaison officer for the leadup to the conference, a position Venediktov sought to ensure would not supplant Poustovoi’s role. xxxi Venediktov also ‘expressed concern’ about whether PHC site visits would ‘contradict’ the director-general’s report to the conference the steering committee promised to share the report but only in June/July 1978. xxxii

Newell, who in early 1977 had left WHO for a community health professorship in his native New Zealand, was contracted to write the first two drafts of the background report, xxxiii with Carl Taylor—a famed PHC advocate with a long international health trajectory in South and East Asia and founding chair of the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins—hired for the third draft. xxxiv Tejada actually sent Newell’s initial June 1977 draft to Venediktov, xxxv who considered this early-stage sharing ‘a mark of confidence’. Venediktov raised a range of concerns, including the inadequate attention paid to WHO’s European office’s working group discussions held in Moscow in 1973 around PHC requirements and developments, such as the use of PHC teams. He also expressed disagreement with the report’s generalisations about ‘widespread dissatisfaction with health services’ and its insistence that ‘no international standard or model of the development of primary health care is possible’. Instead, he argued, ‘the prospects of developing primary health care along the lines exemplified in those countries which have developed such services to a high degree [referring to the USSR and Eastern bloc without explicitly mentioning them] cannot be passed over in silence’. xxxvi

While Venediktov’s ‘personal views’ were welcomed as ‘constructive’ and passed on to Newell, xxxvii he does not appear to have received subsequent versions of the report, likely due to his critique of the first version.

Further feedback was solicited mostly internally and from a few Unicef officials, with Mahler and his closest advisor, Israeli health planner Joshua Cohen, making the final touches. Cohen critiqued the ‘artificial [distinction] … made between frontline health workers and community health workers’ xxxviii in Taylor’s draft, while Mahler was pleased that in the final version ‘the links between health and development, and indeed the interdependence of all sectors involved in furthering social and economic development, permeate the whole document’. xxxix

As late as 1 August 1978, Venediktov requested a copy of the final draft recommendations and declaration, offering, futilely, that a Soviet contribution might be relevant and helpful. xl Venediktov himself was keenly interested in the content of the declaration (see figure 1), although the Soviets had little input into its overall crafting. xx

Members of the Delegation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to the International Conference on Primary Health Care, Dr Dmitry Venediktov is on the right, Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, USSR, 1978. Credit: WHO, 1978.

Meantime, Soviet logistics and site visit planning (which WHO continually stressed were not part of the official agenda) were decentralised and delayed. Only on 30 May 1978, with Kunaev chairing, did Kazakh Communist Party authorities hold a special meeting around conference preparations. xli They approved a list of locales for site visits and allocated more than 3.5 million rubles to renovation of hotels, meeting halls, hospitals, polyclinics, rural epidemiological stations and other facilities. Over the course of the summer, hundreds of Soviet workers were busy preparing the venues, while WHO and Unicef officials were finalising the conference documentation, conference invitations and other planning details.34 36

Finally, the appointed day arrived. At the opening ceremony on 6 September 1978, Soviet Minister of Health Petrovskii was elected president of the conference. Although Soviet leader Brezhnev was not in attendance, he did meet in Moscow with several high-ranking participants (including US Senator Ted Kennedy) on their way to Alma-Ata. Brezhnev’s greetings, likely prepared by Petrovskii and Venediktov and peppered with the expected superlatives, were read by Kunaev:

The Soviet Union shares the hopes of all the peoples, particularly from developing countries, who strive to do away with mass disease, famine and poverty. We are actively participating in international activities directed to solving the problem of providing medical care to the populations of (various) world countries, and this corresponds to the main goal written into WHO charter—achieving the highest possible level of health by all the peoples.

You are gathered on the hospitable land of Soviet Kazakhstan, and with this example of one of the union’s republics, you can see for yourself what great achievements the peoples of former underdeveloped backwaters of Tsarist Russia have achieved in the field of peaceful industrial construction, in science and technology, in culture and arts, in the protection of public health.

In the Soviet Union, the right to accessible and free medical care is guaranteed by the USSR Constitution and is provided by the state system of public health. The questions of public health always occupy a central place in the activity of the Communist Party and the Soviet state. xlii

Like other countries holding international events, the hosts used the conference to showcase domestic achievements.37 38 In his speech, Kazakh Health Minister Sharmanov, undoubtedly rattling Mahler, focused on medical services infrastructure, detailing the number of hospitals, beds, medical personnel, sanitary stations and research establishments in the republic. He expressed hope that ‘learning about the Soviet system of public health in practice will be useful to the representatives of many countries’.39 Further highlighting technical installations over social dimensions was a special exhibit of medical equipment produced by socialist countries. During the midconference weekend days (September 9 and 10), over 500 participants went on dozens of excursions (see figure 2) to Samarkand, Bukhara, Chimkent, Karaganda, Frunze and the Tashkent region. Others travelled along 70 different routes through the Alma-Ata region, visiting more than 100 medical and public health facilities. xliii At the end of the conference, some participants also toured similar facilities further afar, including Georgia and Latvia. xliv

A helicopter sits in the background as two medical nurses treat a patient outside the entrance to the tent of a nomadic family, Kazakhstan, USSR, 1978. Credit: WHO, 1978.

The events of the conference have been widely recounted.22 28 36 40 By all accounts, Kazakh preparations were ‘truly extraordinary’,34 and aside from certain hiccups leading to last-minute changes in the site visits, the conference went off without a hitch.23 34 From the perspective of both the Soviet hosts (especially the Ministry of Health and Kazakhstan) and their guests, the conference appeared a great success. xx , xlv Participants united around the vision embodied in the declaration—approving it by acclamation—and WHO authorities received clear marching orders to push forward the 22 recommendations and the Health for All agenda. The hosts were able to show the world Soviet public health advances, and the international health community reached consensus around a reoriented approach—from top-down technical assistance to integrated socially based PHC—to tackling health.

However, a gaze behind the scenes (or behind the curtain!) suggests a more complicated story.

Despite the remarkable worldwide coverage of the events, the highest echelons of Soviet diplomatic and political decision making expressed little interest in the conference, even as the medical community was deeply involved. To illustrate, the USSR’s only medical newspaper, Meditsinskaya Gazeta, covered the conference extensively as did the local newspaper, Kazakhstanskaya Pravda. Yet neither of the Soviet Union’s two official mouthpieces, Pravda and Izvestiya, even mentioned the conference. Most notably, there was virtually no Soviet coverage of the contents of the famed Declaration of Alma-Ata: the text itself was not published in any newspapers. This silence is further emphasised by contrasting coverage of the 1978 International Genetics Congress, held in Moscow just 2 weeks earlier, on August 21–30. The Genetics Congress received extensive government and press attention, including multipage articles and interviews with key international participants in both Pravda and Izvestiia.37

Moreover, no high-level party functionaries or diplomats attended, though Kazakh authorities proudly highlighted regional advances, which visibly reflected long-time Soviet health protection policies. Soviet political authorities’ ambivalence towards the conference—considering it important enough to finance without pulling out all the stops—seemed to continue in its aftermath. A 1978 Ministry of Health report on Soviet engagement with foreign countries mentioned the Alma-Ata conference only in passing, without any elaboration of its content, goals or impact. xlvi Indeed, judging by the sparse national press coverage of the conference and the midlevel decision making involved in conference planning, once the initial decision to host was made, the conference was clearly not a top state priority.

Still, from his more international perch, Venediktov noted how important it was for conference participants (some of whom, not knowing what to expect, brought a month’s supply of food) to witness ‘previously undeveloped provinces in Russia having made such progress’. He boasted that ‘the significance of Alma-Ata and its documents were acknowledged everywhere, marking a new stage in the development of international public health’.41 At WHO, Venediktov continued to press for recognition that the ‘historical milestone’ of the Alma-Ata conference had been enabled by the extensive and accelerated public health successes reached in some (namely, socialist) countries. xlvii

However, in 1980 Venediktov’s patron Petrovskii was forced out, and a year later, Venediktov lost his post as deputy minister. As a last gasp for the conference’s progenitor, in 1981 Venediktov published a volume directed at Soviet public health personnel detailing the right to health protection and its (potential) realisation in different countries, underlining his personal involvement in demonstrating Soviet leadership and contributions to this area.42 Yet at the 1983 WHA discussion of the Health for All strategy, Petrovskii’s successor as minister of health—who had vainly sought to invite Mahler to plan for a second Soviet PHC meeting—did not even mention the Alma-Ata conference, instead outlining his country’s bilateral efforts in realising these goals. xlviii

In Alma-Ata itself, Sharmanov established an International Collaborative Center on Primary Health Care and continued to champion the importance of the conference and its declaration, decrying pessimistic and accusatory commentaries in The Lancet, Nature and other venues.40 , xlix Kazakhs seemed to be holding the USSR’s PHC banner, serving as consultants, for example, at a 1981 symposium on medico-sanitary care in Europe, held in Finland. l However, after his patron Kunaev left the Politburo in 1987, Sharmanov was left without the requisite support.

Been there, done that? At and after Alma-Ata

This article has aimed to fill in the silences of existing histories of the Alma-Ata conference—and thus deepen understanding of it—by bringing in the role of the Soviet Union and the particular context in which WHO–Soviet relations evolved that led to the realisation of the conference. A further key, but little discussed, part of the story is the role of the larger context. The mid-1970s was a period of détente and cooperation between the superpowers—even as a proxy Cold War played out in the guise of brutal dictatorships in Latin America, Africa and Asia. This enabled both the Soviet and WHO champions to pursue their respective PHC agendas with few encumbrances, despite contrasting visions of what exactly PHC entailed.

Aside from the players most closely associated with the conference, high-level Soviet political authorities apparently failed to appreciate the significance of the meeting outside the USSR. Ironically, Mahler, who had been reluctant to proceed with the conference, came to deploy Alma-Ata as his signature achievement, while Soviet authorities underplayed it. The limited Soviet interest in the Alma-Ata conference and its results compared with its considerable global resonance, suggest different expectations around the meaning and importance of PHC.

Domestically, the meeting appeared to offer little new or noteworthy for the Soviet healthcare system, though it did offer public health administrators an opportunity to parlay the international event into a lobbying tool in negotiations with their Politburo patrons over health ministry budgets. In a way, Brezhnev’s ‘greetings’ to the conference represented exactly what the Soviets saw as a fait accompli in their own public health system: social advancement plus free universal healthcare access had been achieved. Sharmanov’s speech and the site visits detailed these accomplishments and pointed to other areas (such as medical research and development) that still demanded attention. Press coverage of Mahler’s speech on the second day of the conference emphasised his praise of Soviet accomplishments in public health and social justice, in particular ‘subordination of public health development to social goals’.43 Kazakhstanskaia Pravda and Meditsinskaia Gazeta published a selection of speeches by and interviews with conference participants, all of which also lauded ‘the achievements of Soviet public health’. li The general tenor of the press coverage was decidedly self-congratulatory: the Soviet health system was the best in the world and the Alma-Ata conference only proved the obvious. lii

Cold War blinders also prevented Soviets from recognising the disconnect between divergent understandings of PHC. Two key points of contention were the Soviet system’s lack of community participation—stressed by Mahler, Newell and other Western proponents of PHC—and its overmedicalisation, particularly troubling Mahler. Harking back to imperial Russia, debates raged around whether healthcare provision demanded a strong central state agency or should be in the hands of zemstvo (community-based and locally funded) physicians. In this formulation, community participation was equated with medicalised care, not its opposite. When the Bolsheviks came to power, they sidelined zemstvo’s community-based approaches, and a centralised state system prevailed. liii Furthermore, this system focused on physicians trained in ‘scientific medicine’ and exclusion of ‘non-specialists’, such as traditional healers and midwives. These ideas and the Soviet vision were subverted by Newell, who was seeking a hybrid model of care applicable also to capitalist/industrialist and, especially, non-socialist low-income contexts, rather than a socialist healthcare system per se. For Newell and others, PHC needed to adapt to low-resource settings without highly trained medical cadres. Moreover, community-based participation was a hallmark of their PHC approach, with the Soviet system almost anathema to this ideal.

Soviet authorities certainly missed an opportunity to highlight what many outsiders considered the greatest socialist success—not only universal, free, equitable healthcare coverage, but health protection writ large, in terms of housing, sanitation, employment, nutrition, education, elimination of poverty and so on. Perhaps this was because the Soviets believed that, unlike scientific and technological advances, these social dimensions were self-evident results of the socialist system indeed, the Soviets did not display achievements in other sectors and did not take advantage of the conference’s discussions of intersectoralism (which apparently almost nobody attended).

The muted reception of the conference and its promises by the highest Soviet authorities likely also derived from WHO’s marginal importance to their international health cooperation interests. liv For the most part, the USSR and socialist bloc countries operated outside of WHO’s ambit—in large measure because WHO was so dominated by Western bloc countries—using their own system of experts, projects and exchanges.

Only after the dissolution of the USSR that led to the crumbling of the country’s welfare and health-protection systems did those most closely connected, Venediktov and Shchepin, recognise the significance of the vision expressed in the Alma-Ata declaration. With such distance, Venediktov himself came to understand that the Soviet system was overmedicalised. xx , lv As he intimated, it was not until 15 years after the conference that ‘for the first time, we realized in Russia that Alma-Ata has goals beyond our expectation. That it has a much bigger impact than our government could understand [at the time]. And I am saying, this was a mistake’. xx Both Shchepin and Venediktov, having worked overseas for so long, did not fully realise what was going on in their own country, such as the takeover of polyclinics and specialised services by megahospitals. Belatedly, they recognised that the Soviets were copying the West instead of further improving their own system that had been featured at the conference. xx , lvi

While the Soviets did not ‘capitalise’ on Alma-Ata as effective propaganda, PHC was invoked in various socialist bloc health venues. For example, at the 21st Meeting of the Ministers of Public Health of Socialist Countries in Bucharest in June 1980, participants echoed the Alma-Ata declaration, adopting various resolutions about the inseparability of Health for All, the establishment of a NIEO and world peace. lvii Soon thereafter, the Soviets helped the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen create an integrated PHC programme, emphasising that participation of Western countries would necessarily entail the presence of their own experts, espousing ‘ideology alien to democratic Yemen’. lviii

It is important to underscore that these approaches reflected a marked difference in Western and Soviet attitudes to ‘international health aid’. Westerners, even in the PHC approach articulated in the Alma-Ata declaration (rejecting vertical disease campaigns), tended to pursue lower cost, scaled down efforts that did not resemble healthcare delivery arrangements in most ‘donor’ countries. By contrast, the Soviet bloc’s cooperation emphasised national health systems, supporting, where possible, the emulation of the Soviet model rather than a separate approach for 'developing' countries.

At the 24th Meeting of the Ministers of Public Health of Socialist Countries held in Havana in 1983, delegates again took up the language of Alma-Ata, declaring that Communist/Labour parties’ protection of health of the people was ‘possible thanks to social[ist] public health priorities’. lix However, by this time, the Soviets were preoccupied with war in Afghanistan and the escalating arms race with the West, leaving only residual resources and dashed attention to health.

Indeed, the aspirations generated by the conference, to attain Health for All through ‘better use of the world's resources, a considerable part of which is now spent on armaments and military conflicts’ (para. X) i were quickly complicated by geopolitics. The 1979 election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and in 1980 of Ronald Reagan in the USA heralded a conservative ideological turn, coinciding with the imposition of neoliberal policies and a Third World debt crisis that, among other effects, shrank public sector coffers and reduced government (and bilateral/multilateral) spending on social well-being. Also, tensions between the US and Soviet blocs rose with the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the ever-present threat of nuclear war and new generations of ‘Star Wars’ missiles.

As these events were unfolding, the idealistic content of the declaration—and its prospects for ‘Western-style’ implementation via WHO—faced a full-scale assault from rising neoliberal quarters. The Rockefeller Foundation sponsored a 1979 conference at Bellagio on selective PHC that advocated a technical version of PHC based on more feasible and cost-effective measures such as vaccines and vector control instead of the ample sociopolitical-health measures advanced at Alma-Ata that were ‘unattainable… in an age of diminishing resources’.44 Soon the declaration’s overall vision was watered down into a package of ‘child survival’ interventions, whose application was spearheaded by Unicef.45 , lx It was further diluted in attempts to ‘privatise’ PHC, as witnessed by the American Public Health Association’s efforts to push WHO into ‘mobilization of the private sector for primary health care delivery systems in the developing countries’. lxi As such, the timing and Soviet provenance of the Alma-Ata conference were not propitious for the realisation of its goals set out in the declaration, even as many countries, international agencies and social justice non-governmental organisations sought to fulfil them then and continue to advocate for their revival today.


U.S. Adds Chinese, Russian Companies To MEU “Alternative Sanctions” List, Pushing Them Closer Together

They are included in a new ‘Military End User’ (MEU) List, which is part of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

The U.S. Government has determined that these companies are ‘military end users’ for purposes of the ‘military end user’ control in the EAR that applies to specified items for exports, reexports, or transfers (in-country) to the China, Russia, and Venezuela when such items are destined for a prohibited ‘military end user.’

“This action establishes a new process to designate military end users on the MEU List to assist exporters in screening their customers for military end users,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “The Department recognizes the importance of leveraging its partnerships with U.S. and global companies to combat efforts by China and Russia to divert U.S. technology for their destabilizing military programs, including by highlighting red flag indicators such as those related to Communist Chinese military companies identified by the Department of Defense.”

This is essentially an alternative way to sanction Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran and others.

The MEU List informs exporters, reexporters, and transferors that a license will be required to export, reexport, or transfer (in-country) designated items to listed entities. The U.S. Government has determined that these entities represent an unacceptable risk of use in or diversion to a ‘military end use’ or ‘military end user’ in China, Russia, or Venezuela.

However, it is likely that this “alternative sanctioning” will also backfire and push Russia, China, Iran and others to cooperate even more economically and could potentially further isolate the US.

In relation to the new developments, Iran is making moves to further increase economic relations with Russia.

Iranian Oil Minister Bizhan Namdar Zangane said that Iran views Russia as a strategic partner and welcomes Russian investments in the country’s oil industry.

According to the minister, one of the topics discussed at the meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak was the topic of world oil markets.

The meeting was also attended by Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov. Given the serious cooperation in OPEC +, the views on this issue of the two countries turned out to be very close. Therefore, cooperation with Russian companies in the field of oil, gas and equipment production will continue.

Russia and Iran are currently working on a wide range of issues of trade and economic cooperation. In 2020, it became even more active and meaningful, Novak previously reported.

When it comes to drilling, the strategic alliance of Iran and Russia (two first places in gas reserves) is a real challenge for the mega-regulator of the planet’s energy and financial market. Gas is the future of world energy, the main product of the global market in the future.

If China and India are added to this alliance (in fact, this process is taking place within the SCO), then this will lead to the formation of the second center of world power terms of economic, political, demographic and military resources. It’s not even worth talking about its attractiveness for the countries of Africa, the Middle East and Latin America (Venezuela, at least).

Turning this into reality is quite simple, it just needs for China, Russia and Co. to develop their own system of intercountry mutual settlements and risk insurance. Simply put, create a sustainable enough monetary system.

The presence of Shulginov at the meeting is a positive thing. There is a soft transfer of powers within the framework of the existing structure. Shulginov’s functionality and scope of powers will only grow.

Iran, Turkey, and even India (despite its tensions with China) will also and very likely be happy to join such a system.

This is likely showing that there are already mechanisms that will pre-emptively nullify much of the United States’ attempt at unilateral economic pressure.


Russia builds a new launch complex

Russia has wanted to return rocket launches to its own soil for decades the country previously considered a cosmodrome called Svobodny, but the project failed due to a lack of funds, according to Zak. Talk of building a new complex only resumed after soaring oil prices buoyed the Russian economy.

In 2011, Russia began construction on a new launch complex in eastern Russia, called Vostochny. It is located in eastern Siberia near the Chinese border. Observers said that the Russians wanted a launch pad on its own soil for both financial and political reasons (because the Russians wanted to have more autonomy over launch decisions.) The complex was expected to cost $7.5 billion when construction started in 2011, according to NBC News. That's four times higher than the original projected cost of $1.9 billion.

In 2013, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pledged Vostochny would host crewed launches within five years, but there have been difficulties with meeting that deadline. Construction workers on the site went on strike in 2015 after several weeks without salary, according to Radio Svododa. Putin pledged personal oversight of construction, which was taking place amid a decline in the Russian economy, CNN reported. In 2018, a high-ranking official overseeing Vostochny's construction was sentenced to 12 years in prison amid corruption allegations.

The first launch at Vostochny took place in April 2016, when three satellites were launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. The second launch occurred in November 2017 and saw a $45 million weather satellite lost due to human error the mission was accidentally programmed as though it was launching from Baikonur.

In late 2017, an article in Ars Technica pointed out that Russia's dominating position in space is changing and companies may soon go elsewhere for launches. Commercial competitor SpaceX had 16 launches in 2017, including 11 for customers. Russia had more launches than SpaceX (17) but only one-third of them for customers outside of the Russian government. Russia is developing a Soyuz-5 booster that is expected to be ready in 2021. SpaceX, however, will also evolve in the coming years, providing stiff competition.


Watch the video: Ρώσοι παίκτες τραγουδούν τον ύμνο της ΕΣΣΔ (August 2022).

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